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Occupied Palestinian Territory

Geography, climate and population


The Occupied Palestinian Territory has a total area of 6 020 km2 (Table 1). The West Bank is a landlocked territory on the west bank of the Jordan River with a total area of 5 655 km2, surrounded by Jordan to the east and Israel to the south, west and north. The Gaza Strip is a narrow coastal strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea with a total area of 365 km2, bordering with Egypt to the south and Israel to the north and east. It takes its name from Gaza, its main city. Under existing arrangements (2008) the Occupied Palestinian Territory is not recognized as a fully sovereign state and it only has full control of parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The fully controlled part, known as Area A, comprises the Gaza Strip and all of the eight largest West Bank municipalities, except 20 percent of Hebron which is under Israeli control. These municipalities include Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho and Quaqilye. Area B includes about 100 separate areas of rural land, delineated in the “Oslo Accords” maps, in which the Palestinian Authority has control over civil administration but the Israeli Authorities have control over all aspects of security. The Israeli authorities remain in full control of Area C, which amounts to about 59 percent of the West Bank.

The limestone hills of the West Bank act as a porous sponge which absorbs most of the rainwater falling on it, and much of this emerges as springs in valleys and along the margins of the highlands both east and west. Farming in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is largely determined by a variety of agro-ecologic conditions, influenced by altitude, proximity to sea and soils. Moving from east to west there are five main zones: the Jordan Valley, eastern slopes, central highlands, semi-coastal and coastal regions (FAO, 2001).

In 1998, the total cultivated area amounted to 185 011 ha of which 90 percent lie in the West Bank. Fruit trees occupied 113 840 ha of which 105 483 ha in the West Bank and 8 357 ha in the Gaza Strip (Table 2 and Table 3). With the exception of the Gaza Strip, the Jordan Valley and some parts of Qalqilya, most fruit trees are grown under rainfed conditions. Olives constitute over 70 percent of the area planted with fruit trees, while almonds and grapes occupy 8 and 7 percent respectively. Field crops are planted on 52 011 ha (48 075 ha in the West Bank and 3 936 ha in the Gaza Strip), but only in Jericho are they predominantly under irrigation. Wheat and barley are, with 32 and 28 percent respectively of the area under field crops, the main field crops planted. Field crops can also be found intercropped in orchards, especially while the trees are still young. Vegetables, grown in the open, in low plastic tunnels and in greenhouses, are planted on 19 160 ha (13 144 ha in the West Bank and 6 016 ha in the Gaza Strip). Tomatoes, squash and potatoes occupy the majority of land under vegetables (between 10 to 15 percent each). The majority of vegetables are grown under irrigation, although watermelon, cucumber and some pulses tend to be grown under rainfed conditions (FAO, 2001).

In 2005, the total cultivated area in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was 222 000 ha, of which 107 000 ha annual crops and 115 000 ha permanent crops (Table 1).


The climate in Occupied Palestinian Territory is predominantly of the eastern Mediterranean type with cool and rainy winters, hot dry summers and an annual rainfall in the range of 100-700 mm.

The following are the five major zones based on several factors including climate, topography, soil types and farming systems:

  • The Jordan Valley Region lies 90-375 m above sea level with an annual rainfall of only 100-200 mm. Soil salinization is a major problem. Irrigation is essential for farming operations and winter vegetables and grapes are the main irrigated crops.
  • The Eastern Slopes Region is a transitional zone between the Mediterranean and Desert climate with rainfall of 150-300 mm/year. The main economic activity is livestock. There is also some spring-irrigated agriculture.
  • The Central Highlands Region extends the length of the West Bank with mountains ranging from 400-1 000 m. Annual rainfall varies between 300 mm in the south to 600 mm in the north. Agriculture is primarily rainfed and includes olives, stone fruits, field crops, etc.
  • The Semi-Coastal Region has an elevation of 100-300 m above sea level. Rainfall varies from 400-700 mm/year. It supports the same rainfed crops as the Central Highlands Region but it also has a limited irrigated area under vegetables.
  • The Coastal Plain is the Gaza Strip. It has a rainfall of 200-400 mm/year. The soils are fertile. Irrigated agriculture is substantially practiced using groundwater. Citrus fruits and vegetables, the latter both in the open and under plastic, are extensively grown. Overexploitation of the aquifer has led to extensive seawater intrusion and salinization of the water.


In 2005, the total population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory reached about 3.7 million (Table 1), of which 62 percent in the West Bank and 38 percent in the Gaza Strip (Table 2 and Table 3). The annual demographic growth rate was estimated at 3.3 percent during the period 2000-2005. About 73 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation in 2004 (78 and 61 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively) and 92 percent had access to improved water sources (94 and 88 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively).


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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