Head of government Salam Fayyad
Death penalty retentionist
Population 4.3 million
Life expectancy 73.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 23/18 per 1,000
Adult literacy 93.8 per cent
During Operation "Cast Lead", the 22-day military offensive launched by Israel that ended on 18 January, Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip continued to fire indiscriminate rockets and mortars into Israel, and within Gaza they abducted political opponents and former detainees alleged to have "collaborated" with the Israeli intelligence services; some were summarily killed, others were beaten or shot in the legs. Throughout the year, Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces in the West Bank and Hamas security forces and militias in Gaza arbitrarily detained hundreds of members or sympathizers of rival factions without charge or trial and often tortured and otherwise ill-treated them. Security agencies under the PA in the West Bank and the de facto administration in Gaza used excessive force when confronting armed rivals, causing a number of civilian deaths. The PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza continued to clamp down on freedom of expression. Military courts in the West Bank and Gaza sentenced 17 people to death; no executions were carried out.
Israel's occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip continued. In this context, two separate non-state Palestinian authorities operated with limited powers: in the West Bank, the caretaker government of the PA under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party; and in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas de facto administration under former PA Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyeh. Inter-factional tension continued between Fatah and Hamas despite attempts at reconciliation sponsored by the Egyptian government.
Armed groups affiliated to Hamas largely complied with the ceasefire with Israel declared in late January, but other Palestinian armed groups linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Fatah and Islamic Jihad continued to fire rockets and mortars into southern Israel periodically throughout the year; although indiscriminate, these did not cause Israeli civilian fatalities.
The Israeli military blockade of Gaza, in force since June 2007, continued to have a devastating impact on food security, health and civilian infrastructure. The humanitarian crisis caused by the blockade was exacerbated by Operation "Cast Lead" (see Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories entry), which destroyed more than 3,000 homes and damaged a further 20,000. Scores of civilian buildings, including hospitals, clinics and schools, were also damaged. The Israeli authorities restricted the entry of basic commodities such as fuel and imposed a total ban on the import of cement, so tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border were increasingly used to smuggle in goods. The inherently unsafe tunnels were made more dangerous by attacks by Israeli forces; dozens of people, including children, were killed and injured in the tunnels.
In September, the UN Human Rights Council's Goldstone report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel during Operation "Cast Lead", and recommended that those responsible be brought to justice. The Hamas de facto administration did not establish any independent or impartial investigation into the conduct of Palestinian armed groups; Hamas officials said only that they were prepared to conduct internal investigations.