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Countries

Palestinian Territories

Palestinian Territories
Palestinian Territories
Palestinian Territories
(ILIA YEFIMOVICH/Getty Images)
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Overview

The Palestinian Territories comprise two sections of the former mandate of Palestine: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The two small areas are separated from one another by Israel, which controls most of their frontiers. Jordan borders the West Bank on the east, while Egypt lies to the west of the Gaza Strip. The West Bank is a hilly, warm country that enjoys sufficient rainfall to support agriculture, but because the Gaza Strip receives little precipitation due to its location next to the dry Sinai Desert, its economy has traditionally relied on fishing and trade. The territories' only natural border is the Jordan River on the eastern edge of the West Bank. The Palestinian Territories lack a clear demographic core, although the lands have a symbolic heart: the city of Jerusalem, which Palestinians view as their capital. The Palestinian Territories evolved over time. After Israel gained its independence in 1948, Jordan annexed the West Bank while Egypt took control of Gaza. After the Six Day War in 1967, however, Israel occupied both territories. The occupation strengthened Palestinian identity, and members of the community eventually came to regard Gaza and the West Bank as components of a united proto-state. But due to their size and domination by Israel, the Palestinian Territories have not succeeded in achieving state status. The territories, meanwhile, are not only divided geographically but also politically, as the Islamist party Hamas rules Gaza, while the more nationalist and secularist Fatah controls the West Bank. In addition to overcoming the lack of unity, the Palestinian Territories must convince Israel's allies to allow the entity to gain autonomy and eventually achieve independence. Ultimately, internal political divisions and the need to pursue diplomacy to become a sovereign state represent the core geographic challenges for the Palestinian Territories.

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