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The city was first inhabited by the Canaanites and occupied by Egypt in the 15th century BC. Several hundred years later it was a major center of the Philistines. Ancient trade routes met at Gaza.

The Muslims captured Gaza  in the 600s. Christian crusaders came in the 1100s, and the Muslims retook the city in 1187.

In 1940, Gaza had a population of 21,300. In 1990 the population war around 125,000. The city had an adequate supply of water, and a small but good harbor from which wheat was exported. Industry in the forties was largely the weaving of Bedouin cloaks.

From 1948, Gaza was under Egyptian rule - until the 1967 war, when it came under Israeli occupation.

The area around Gaza, known as the Gaza Strip contained 963,000 people in 1996, 746,000 of whom were refuges, and around 6,000 Israeli settlers.

Fruit growing has become one its industries.