Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera

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Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (Spanish pronunciation: [peˈɲon de ˈβeleθ ðe la ɣoˈmeɾa]) is a Spanish territory in North Africa off the Moroccan coast (Plazas de soberanía). It is part of several Peñones, or rock-fortresses on the coast of Northern Africa. Vélez de la Gomera is administered from Melilla. Its tiny population is made up of military personnel only.

Contents

Geography

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is located 119 km southeast of Ceuta. It was a natural island until 1934, when a huge thunderstorm washed large quantities of sand in the short channel between the island and the African continent[1] Ever since, it has been a peninsula, currently connected to the Moroccan coast by an 85 m long sandy isthmus, the world's shortest land border. With a length of 400 meters northwest-southeast and a width of up to 100 meters, it covers about 19,000 m² or 1.9 ha.

History

Portugal and Spain passed an agreement in 1496 in which they effectively established their zones of influence on the North African coast: Spain could only occupy territory east of Peñon de Velez. This restriction would only end with the absorption of Portugal into the Spanish crown of Philip II after the 1578 Battle of Ksar El Kebir, when Spain started to take direct actions in Morocco, as in the occupation of Larache.[2]

In 1508, Spain launched an expedition under the command of Pedro Navarro to fight against the pirates who populated it, and who were constantly attacking and looting the coast of Southern Spain. Spain captured the Peñón.

In 1522, Spain lost the Peñon after a successful Moroccan Berber attack, in which the whole Spanish garrison was slaughtered. Ali Abu Hassun, new ruler of the Kingdom of Fez in 1554, then gave the Penon to Ottoman troops that had assisted him in gaining the throne.[3]

In 1564, after some failed attempts, the Spaniards under command of García Álvarez de Toledo, 4th Marquis of Villafranca, reconquered it and they have retained control of it ever since, despite having been besieged in 1680, 1701, 1755, 1781 and 1790.

In 1871, the Spanish Congress debated abandoning the Peñón, since by that time it had lost its military interest, but in the end the proposal was dropped.

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