The village was situated on a hilly spot underlain by limestone rock on the central coastal plain, about 1 km south of Wadi al-Sarar. It was linked by a spur to a highway leading to Ramla and other urban centers, and by secondary roads to a number of villages in the vicinity. It has been identified with the Hellenistic town of Kidron, also called Cedron or Gedrus (1 Maccabees 15:39). During the Roman period Kidron fell within the administrative jurisdiction of Azotus Hippenus (lsdud). In the fourth century A.D. it appears to have been a large town. Little is known about the site in the early Islamic period. In 1596, Qatra was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza) with a population of 336. It paid taxes on a number of crops (including wheat, barley, sesame, and fruit), as well as on other types of produce, such as goats and beehives.
Robinson visited Qatra in 1852 and said that it was of considerable size. In the late nineteenth century it was a village built of adobe bricks and surrounded by gardens. During the Mandate it was also referred to as Qatrat Islam, to distinguish it from Qatrat Yahud, the adjacent Jewish fort. The village had a rectangular layout and its houses were built either of adobe brick or cement. A mosque and several shops were located at the village center. The population was predominantly Muslim. A coeducational elementary school was founded in 1923, in which 123 boys and 8 girls were enrolled in the mid-I940s. During the Mandate, when new housing was constructed on what had been farmland, the built-up area expanded toward the southeast.
Agriculture represented the chief economic activity of the villagers, due in part to ample ground water and rich soil. The residents grew an assortment of crops, including grain, vegetables, and fruit, which were rainfed and irrigated from artesian wells. Orchards and cultivated fields surrounded the village on all sides. In 1944/45 a total of 391 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 4,320 dunums were allocated to cereals. Two hundred fifteen dunums were irrigated or used for orchards; 30 dunums of this land were covered by olive trees. Modern Qatra was built over the Roman and Byzantine site, which produced evidence of mosaic floors, building foundations, and ceramic fragments.
The earliest report of Haganah military activity at Qatra was on 13 March 1948, when the Palestinian newspaper Filastin reported a shooting incident involving Arab fruit-pickers working in an orchard that left five workers wounded. A month later, a New York Times story indicated that Haganah squads moved into the police fortress at Qatra on 17 April, after its evacuation by the British.
Israeli historian Benny Morris states that units of the Giv'ati Brigade surrounded the village on 6 May and demanded that the villagers hand over all their weapons. After that, Morris reports the following sequence of events: several dozen armed men tried to break out of the village but were stopped by the Haganah. The villagers handed over several rifles to the Giv'ati Brigade troops, who nevertheless proceeded to move into the village. After that, the soldiers began looting the village and one of them was shot dead by a villager. The Haganah arrested several villagers, and according to Morris, 'within a few days, either intimidated the rest of the villagers into leaving or ordered them to leave.' The official Haganah account agrees that Qatra was occupied around this time but cites the Alexandroni Brigade (probably erroneously) as the occupying force.
Zionists established the settlement of Gedera (129136) just south of the village site in 1884; it is now a town, and many of its buildings are on village land. Qidron (131136) was built on village land in 1949.
Only the school and a few deserted houses remain. A number of palm trees and cactuses grow on the site, and the surrounding lands are cultivated by Israelis.