LONDON-The first thing that strikes you about the Gaza Strip is how small it is.
Constrained by the Egyptian desert to its south, the Mediterranean to its west, and the barbed wire and concrete barriers of Israel to its north and east, Gaza is just 25 miles long and about five miles wide. Traded back and forth by empires since the Bronze Age, Gaza was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from the 16th Century until Britain claimed it after World War I, Egypt took it after the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and Israel seized it during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Today, 1.4 million Palestinians live on that strip, most of them descendants of 600,000 Palestinians who fled to Gaza and the West Bank in 1948 after Arab armies – who were unwilling to accept a 1947 United Nations plan to create two states, one Arab and one Jewish, out of British Palestine – chose to attack instead, only to be routed by the Israeli army. Many Palestinians in Gaza still live in refugee camps, waiting for the so-called “right of return,” where they hope to reclaim property left behind by their grandparents 70 years ago on land known then as Palestine but known ever since as the state of Israel.