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Deir El Balah

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Deir El Balah is a town south of Gaza City, occupying an area of around 15 square kilometers. Archaeological evidence, including tombs, ceramic coffins, and bronze and pottery vessels, suggests the area was first settled during the Bronze Age. The city is also know for the Egyptian sarcophagi found here, dating back to the 13th century BC. At the time, Deir El Balah served as a major fortified market city for the Egyptians.

The name Deir El Balah, meaning ‘monastery of the dates,’ refers to the city’s more recent Byzantine history as well as the palm trees that it is famous for. The monastery that is the city’s namesake was built during 372AD under the auspices of St. Helena. During the Crusader period the city became very significant, with military bases for the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller. The Ayyubids later expelled the Crusaders and the city became a way station on the route from Cairo to the towns in Palestine and on to Damascus.

The population of Deir El Balah and its surrounding areas has risen significantly since 1948, transforming it from a small town into one of the four major urban areas in Gaza. Deir El Balah itself is home to about 30,000 residents, but with the four nearby refugee camps of Deir El Balah, Bureij, Maghazi, and Nusseirat, the population of the area is closer to 150,000. The area is known for its date, olive, and fig production.

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