Infobox Palestinian Authority muni

mayor=Sa’ad Zoarub
Rafah ( _ar. رفح) is a Palestinian town in the Gaza Strip, on the Egyptian border, and a nearby town on the Egyptian side of the border, on the Sinai Peninsula. Over the ages it has been known as "Robihwa" by the ancient Egyptians, "Rafihu" by the Assyrians, "Raphia" by the Greeks and Romans, "unicode|Raphiaḥ" by Israelites (as well as in Modern Hebrew) and now "Rafah". The Aramaic text "Targum Onkelos" interpreted the Biblical location of Hazerim as referring to Rafah, but there is no other evidence for this.

It is the largest town on the Gaza Strip - Egypt border, with a population of approximately 130,000, of which some 84,000 live in the two refugee camps about it, Canada Camp (Tell as-Sultan Camp) to the north, and Rafah camp to the south. [http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_pcbs/populati/pop16.aspx Projected Mid -Year Population for Rafah Governorate by Locality 2004- 2006] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics] It serves as the district capital of the Rafah Governorate. Yasser Arafat International Airport, Gaza's only airport, is located just south of the city; the airport operated from 1998 to 2001. Rafah is the site of the Rafah Border Crossing, the only crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.



Rafah has a history stretching back thousands of years. It was first recorded in an inscription of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I, from 1303 BC as "Rph", and as the first stop on Pharaoh Shoshenq I's campaign to the Levant in 925 BC. [ Raphia - (Rafah)] Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem.]

In 720 BC it was the site of the Assyrian king Sargon II's victory over the Egyptians, and in 217 BC the Battle of Raphia was fought between the victorious Ptolemy IV and Antiochus III. (It is said to be the largest battle ever fought in the Levant, with over a hundred thousand soldiers and hundreds of elephants).

The town was conquered by Alexander Yannai and held by the Hasmoneans until it was rebuilt in the time of Pompey and Gabinius; the latter seems to have done the actual work of restoration for the era of the town dates from 57 BCE. Rafah is mentioned in Strabo (16,2, 31), the Itinerarium Antonini, and is depicted on the Map of Madaba.

A Jewish community settled there in the 9th and 10th centuries and again in the 12th, although in the 11th century it suffered a decline and in 1080 they migrated to Ashkelon. A Samaritan community also lived there at this period. Like most cities of southern Palestine, ancient Rafa had a landing place on the coast (now Tell Rafah), while the main city was inland.

During the Byzantine period, it was a Diocese, and an important trading city during the early Arab period, however it steadily declined and was likely abandoned by the 12th century. By the Mameluk period it was recorded as a postal station, and 16th century Ottoman records show a small village of 16 taxpayers.

Twentieth century

In 1917 the British army captured Rafah, and it was used as a base for their attack on Gaza. The presence of the army bases was an economic draw that brought people back to the city, and in 1922 it had a population of 600. By 1948 the population had risen to 2,500. After the Israeli War of Independence, the refugee camps were established, and when Israel captured it with the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six-Day War, the population was about 55,000, of whom only 11,000 lived in Rafah itself.

mandated the repatriation of Canada project refugees to the Gaza Strip, the Tel al-Sultan project, to the northwest of Rafah, was built to accommodate them. [Human Rights Watch. [http://hrw.org/reports/2004/rafah1004/5.htm Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip] . October 2004.]


In 1922, Rafah's population was 599, which increased to 2,220 in 1945. In 1982, the total population was approximately 10,800. [ [http://www.palestineremembered.com/GeoPoints/Rafah_1500/index.html Welcome to Rafah] Palestine Remembered.] In a 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Rafah and its adjacent camp had a combined population of 91,181. In a 2006 projection by the PCBS, Rafah alone had a population of 71,000.

In the 1997 census, Rafah's (together with Rafah camp) gender distribution was 50.5% male and 49.5% female. [ [http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_pcbs/phc_97/raf_t1.aspx Palestinian Population by Locality, Sex and Age Groups in Years] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics] Refugees made up 80.3% of the entire population. [ [http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_pcbs/phc_97/raf_t6.aspx Palestinian Population by Locality and Refugee Status] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics]

Rafah Border Crossing

Rafah is the site of the Rafah Border Crossing, the only crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Formerly operated by Israeli military forces, control of the crossing was transferred to the Palestinian Authority in September 2005 as part of the larger Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. A European Union commission began monitoring the crossing in November 2005 amid Israeli security concerns, and in April 2006 Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Presidential Guard assumed responsibility for the site. [Mitch Potter, Something that works: the Rafah crossing, "The Toronto Star", May 21, 2006.]

On 2 am on January 23, 2008, the border crossing was breached after gunmen set off an explosion nearby, destroying part of the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier. Over the next four days, approximately 700,000 Palestinians crossed into Egypt, most planning to buy supplies and return to Gaza. A smaller number of Egyptians crossed into Gaza.

ee also

*Battle of Gaza (2007)
*2006 Israel-Gaza conflict
*European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah
*Rafah Elementary Co-Ed “B” School
*Rafah Governorate


External links

* [http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/gaza/rafah.html United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]
* [http://www.rafahtoday.org/ Rafah Today, pictures by Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer]
* [http://www.weaponsurvey.com/tunnels.htm Rafah Smuggling Tunnels]
* [http://rafahpundits.com/ Rafah Pundits: Rafah Focused Blog]
* [http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com/ Raising Yousuf] - Blog by Laila el-Hadad who is a reporter for Aljazeera living in Gaza
* [http://rafahtoday.org/news/todaymain.htm Reports from Rafah]
* [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/06/17/1437207 Interview with Hip Hop Artist Michael Franti] - Reporting from Rafah.
* [http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/opt/docs/UN/OCHA/Rafah_insetA.pdf Part A] [http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/opt/docs/UN/OCHA/Rafah_insetB.pdf Part B] Satellite photos comparing 2001 to 2004.
* [http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/gaza Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip] - Human Rights Watch
* [http://orscp.org The Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project] - The organization started by people in the communities of Rafah, Gaza, and Olympia, WA
* [http://madisonrafah.org The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project] - A sistering project connecting the communities of Rafah, Gaza, and Madison, WI

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