Balata residents took leading roles in both Palestinian intifadas, the first in the late 1980s through the early 1990s and the second in the first five years of the new millennium. In 1987, when people in the Gaza Strip ignited the first intifada (literally, 'shaking off'), Balata camp was the first community in the West Bank to engage in violence. Balata is one of the densest locations on earth. Less than 2 square kilometers in size, 30,000 people live in its concrete block houses. The architecture of the camp is unique.
In 1950, the UN gave the refugees from the Yaffa area temporary housing. These people initially refused the UN's offers, stating their eagerness to return to their homes. They desired no sense of permanence. After two years, these refugees accepted the UN's offer and settled at Balata. Six years later, the Yaffa refugees desired more permanent housing.
The border with the recently created State of Israel having been sealed, the refugees accepted the UN's offer to build concrete structures in place of their tent homes. Balata camp today is so dense because these concrete structures were built on the actual plots families had been given for their tents. There are some alleyways in the camp that so narrow that large people cannot traverse them. The IDF has allegedly developed various tactics, like "travelling through walls", that allow them to enter the camp without suffering many casualties. In the travelling through walls tactic, Israeli soldiers enter a home on the edge of the camp in cover of night, and proceed to blow holes through the walls of homes down a given street, using the homes as shields against Palestinian fire. Read more on Last.fm.
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