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Khan Yunis - often spelt Khan Younis - ( ; literally Jonah's Inn) is a city and adjacent refugee camp in the southern part of the Gaza Stripmarker. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the city, its refugee camp, and its immediate surroundings had a total population of 180,000 in 2006. Although Khan Yunis lies only 4 kilometers from the Mediterraneanmarker sea the climate of Khan Yunis is that of semi-arid region with an annual rainfall of approximately 260 mm.

The Constituency of Khan Yunis has five members on the Palestinian Legislative Council. Following the Palestinian legislative election, 2006, there were three Hamas members, including Yunis al-Astal; and two Fatah members, including Mohammed Dahlan.

History

Prior to the 14th century, Khan Yunis was a village known as Salqah. After Yunus al-Nûzûri constructed a khan there around 1388, with time, the place was named for him. Yunis Ibn Abdallah an-Nawruzi ad-Dawadar was the executive Secretary, one of the high ranking officials of Sultan Barquq, and the first Circassian Mamluk Sultan. The Khan was built in 789 Hijri/ 1387CE according to the inscription located on its main entrance. The purpose of the Khan was to protect the caravans, pilgrims and travelers. Later it became an important center for trade, the weekly market in the town was on Thursday, and used to attract traders from neighboring regions. It also served as resting stop for couriers of the barid, the Mamluk postal network in Palestine and Syria.

Khan Yunis refugee camp was founded in 1948 initially held 35,000 Palestinian Arabs. The number of refugees and their descendants registered with UNRWA in mid-2008 was 68,324.

1956 Massacre

In November 3, 1956, during the Suez War Israelmarker launched an invasion into Egyptmarker; at that time Khan Yunis was controlled by Egyptmarker, during which time it was occupied for the first time. At this time the Israeli Army rounded up residents of the town and the neighbouring refugee camp on the streets and in their homes and shot them. The Israeli’s claim that these people possessed weapons. This massacre was reported to the UN General Assembly on 15th December 1956 by the Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. These events are graphically depicted in Joe Sacco’s book Footnotes in Gaza .

In 1967, during the Six Day War Israelmarker occupied Khan Yunis.

Second Intifada

Khan Yunis was the site of Israelimarker helicopter attacks in August 2001 and October 2002. The result of many of the helicopter attacks has left several civilians killed, hundreds wounded and civilian buildings within the vicinity destroyed.It is known as a stronghold of Hamas which is recognised as a terrorist group by many countries.

The northern part of Khan Yunis overlooks the Kissufimmarker junction — formerly one of the main roads for Israeli traffic to Gush Katifmarker settlement. Buildings there had often been used by militants as sniping posts and mortar bases to shoot at Israeli settlements and soldiers.

From Khan Yunis' northern buildings, two Islamic militants killed an Israeli civilian Tali Hatuel on May 2, 2004, forcing her and her four daughters off the road and shooting them at close range. The next week, her memorial service was attacked at the same site. One building was also used as cover for an explosive-laden tunnel, which blew up an Israelimarker (IDF) occupation outpost on June 27 of that year. After each attack, the Israeli Defence Forces bulldozed some of the structures used by the militants.

On December 16, 2004, the Israel Defence forces raided the town with armoured bulldozer and tanks in order to stop mortar shelling of Israeli towns. In the six weeks before the operation about 80 mortar shells and Qassam rockets had hit the Gush Katifmarker settlement. Khan Yunis have been the target of frequent raids by the Israeli defence forces, and heavy battles have ensued in the area. In 2005, Israel attempted to isolate the area ,but they didn't succeed because of Hamas resistance. In 2006 Hamas took power in the Gaza Stripmarker. Since Israel's 2005 Gaza Disengagement, over 2,000 Qassam rockets have been launched from Khan Yunis into Israel, mostly to the Southern Israeli city of Sderotmarker. In January 2009, members of the Shurrab family were killed by Israeli Defence Force members during a "lull" in fighting in the war in Gaza.

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