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Rooftop solar panels help relieve power shortages in Gaza City, where harsh economic conditions have forced residents to adapt. 

Rooftop solar panels help relieve power shortages in Gaza City, where harsh economic conditions have forced residents to adapt. 

Photo by Salem Al Qudwa from Open Gaza, edited by Michael Sorkin and Deen Sharp, used by permission of the publisher, AUC Press & Terreform

CityLab
Design

Why the Gaza Strip May Be the City of the Future

Urban life amid the Israel-Palestine conflict is defined by violence, surveillance and resource scarcity — conditions that, a new book warns, may soon be more widespread. 

Corrected

When Americans turned on the TV or glanced at their smartphones for news of the deadly clashes that engulfed the Gaza Strip in May — or if they followed the more recent spasm of violence in August that threatened to break the region’s fragile truce — many saw scenes that looked familiar: streets flooded with protesters, engaged in a struggle against highly armed security forces on the streets of a battered-looking city.

In many ways, the political and physical conditions of the Gaza Strip are unique: Nearly 2 million people are packed into a 25-mile-long rectangle of land along the Mediterranean roughly the size of Philadelphia. T
he territory has been home to Palestinians displaced by the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, and was occupied for nearly four decades by Israel after the 1967 Middle East War. The political wing of Hamas, which opposes Israel's right to exist, was elected to power in 2006; it took control of the enclave after a bloody schism with a rival Palestinian faction the following year. Israel — alongside Egypt — then placed Gaza under blockade as Hamas militants have continued to attack Israel. The two sides have settled into a gruesome rhythm of low levels of violence punctuated by intense conflagrations. In May’s fighting, as many as 260 Palestinians were killed; in Israel, 13 people were killed.

Gaza is a landscape of extreme economic deprivation born of the region’s complicated political dynamics — but one whose contours may soon become more common.