The village was built on flat terrain on the coastal plain, north of an earlier site which had been engulfed by sand dunes. When sand dunes began to surround Ni'ilya on the southern side, the villagers kept their movement in check by planting fruit trees. Secondary roads linked the village to the town of al-Majdal, 3 km to the north-northeast, and to the coastal highway a short distance to the east. In 1596, Ni'ilya was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza), with a population of 440. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, sesame, and fruit, as well as on other types of produce and property, such as goats, beehives and vineyards.
In the late nineteenth century, Ni'ilya was surrounded by gardens with olive groves that extended all the way to al-Majdal. Encroaching sand from the coast had been stopped by cactus hedges. Ni'ilya had a trapezoidal configuration, with the long base pointing northeastward. Its houses, some made of adobe and others of cement, were separated by narrow alleys. Houses were also constructed among the fruit orchards. The village expanded along the road that led to al-Majdal. On the southern side it had a mosque that was decorated with inscriptions and was surrounded by fragments of older buildings and burial places. The villagers, who were Muslim, believed that the tombs contained the bodies of people killed in the fighting against the Crusaders. The children attended school in al-Majdal; their own school building, completed in the winter of 1948, never opened because of the war. The village had several little shops. The community relied mainly on agriculture for its livelihood, growing rainfed grain and many varieties of fruit, such as citrus, grapes, figs, and apricots. In 1944/45 a total of 1,084 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 2,215 dunums were allotted to cereals; 1,436 dunums were irrigated. The village fruit orchards were irrigated from artesian wells.
Probably occupied around the time of the fall of al-Majdal, Ni'ilya was one of the last villages to be seized by Israeli forces in the south. On the heels of Operation Yoav , Israeli units managed to sack the town of al-Majdal along with a number of satellite villages on 4–5 November 1948.
The center of the town of Ashqelon, established in 1948, is northwest of the village site; the town has expanded onto village lands.
The village has been obliterated, and the site is overgrown with wild plants and a few sycamore trees. One house that had probably been built in a fruit orchard still stands and is currently inhabited by a Palestinian family. It has a flat roof and rectangular windows and door. The land in the vicinity is cultivated by Israeli farmers.