Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp, where 100,000 are packed into a square kilometre

A look at life inside the largest of the strip's eight refugee camps after a deadly attack by Israel

Devastation at the Jabalia refugee camp, often the target of Israeli air strikes. AFP
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Deadly Israeli air strikes on Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp on Tuesday night have again brought the Palestinian enclave's largest camp into global focus.

The attack killed at least 50 people and injured hundreds more as Israeli troops advance towards densely populated residential neighbourhoods.

The camp covers an area of only 1.4 square kilometres but officially houses more than 116,000 Palestine refugees, UNRWA said.

Here, The National looks at the importance of the camp and what daily life is like there.

What is the Jabalia refugee camp and why is important?

Established in 1948, Jabalia is the largest of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.

Twenty years after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Palestinians launched their first Intifada, or uprising, after an Israeli lorry crashed into a vehicle carrying Palestinian workers in Jabalia refugee camp, killing four. Stone-throwing protests, strikes and shutdowns soon followed.

The attack is thought to have spawned the genesis of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Hamas movement to rival former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's secular Fatah party.

Today, most of the camp's residents are displaced from cities and villages in southern Israel, such as Ashdod, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla and Be'er Sheva.

About 35,000 refugees initially settled in the camp, with the number increasing over the years.

Scores killed in Israeli strikes on Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza

Scores killed in Israeli strikes on Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza

There are 116,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA inside Jabalia, though the number of those unregistered is not known.

Jabalia is the closest camp to the Erez border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Its residents were the primary source of foreign Palestinian workers, nearly 21,000 daily, who crossed the Erez border into Israel before Hamas took over the strip.

What is life like inside Jabalia refugee camp?

The lack of space in an already densely populated area meant the camp's housing was tightly packed together.

Many residents of the camp's apartments have been forced to build additional floors to accommodate growing families.

Most of the buildings were built on poor foundations with limited resources.

UNRWA runs 26 schools in the camp as well as 16 educational buildings. It also runs two relief and social services offices for resident refugees.

The UN body said it had been forced to reduce relief services provided to refugee camps across Gaza, including Jabalia, because of a decline in international financial support.

What happened on Tuesday?

The Israeli strike overnight drew condemnation across the Middle East, coming ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expected trip to the region early this month.

At least 400 people were killed or injured in the bombardment, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said.

The Israeli military said the refugee camp was used as a training centre by Hamas and that the attack had killed dozens of militants.

The Israeli military had repeatedly targeted the Jabalia camp, including four attacks last month, killing more than 150 people.

Updated: November 01, 2023, 9:43 AM