Facts About the Palestinian People

The Palestinian people referred to are from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, which was occupied by Israel in 1967.

The Palestinian people trace their ancestry to the Canaanites and other Semitic peoples who moved into historical Palestine some 2000 years ago.

The West Bank comprises the area west of the Jordan River, which between 1950 and 1967 was under Jordanian sovereignty. It is approximately 5655km in size and has a population of 2.1 million. The West Bank is predominantly rural with up to 60% of the population living in about 500 villages. There are eight medium size towns.

The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea, lying about 64km southeast of the West Bank. It is bordered by Israel on the north and east and Egypt on the south under whose rule the area fell between 1950 and 1967. Stretching about 45km from north to south and only about 5km wide it comprises an area of only 365 km sq. With a population numbering 1.4 million it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Gaza is highly urbanised with the bulk of the population living in cities, towns and eight crowded refugee camps, home to over 800,000 refugees.

From 1967 until 1993 both areas were under complete Israeli control. Following the Oslo Peace Accords, some areas of the West Bank were handed over to Palestinian National Authority, along with 60% of the Gaza Strip. Now, following the Israeli disengagement, there are no settelments in the Gaza Strip.

The population of both the West Bank and Gaza Strip is largely young, with about 47% 14 years or younger and 57% 19 years or younger. Families are large, averaging between 6 to 7 persons per household in Gaza and 5 to 6 persons in the West Bank. The rate of population growth is high, at about 4.7% a year in the West Bank and 5.4% in Gaza.