The village was located on gently rolling hills on the coastal plain, A secondary road connected it to a highway that led to Gaza, to the southwest, and joined the highway between Ramla and Jerusalem, to the northeast, Other secondary roads provided links between Jilya and villages in the vicinity. Jilya may have been built on the site of the Roman town of Galla. In 1596, Jilya was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza) with a population of ninety-four. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on other types of produce and property, such as goats, beehives, and vineyards.
In the late nineteenth century, Jilya was described as a village built of stone and mud. The village's outline was rectangular, extending from the southeast to the northwest. In modern times, construction in Jilya expanded southwest along the road to the village of al-Khayma. Jilya's entire population was Muslim. The village had a mosque and a few shops. In 1945 it shared an elementary school with the nearby villages of Qazaza and Sajad. Its economy was based on grain, vegetable, and fruit cultivation. In 1944/45 a total of 40 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 7,677 dunums were allocated to cereals. The villagers irrigated their fruit orchards with water drawn from several wells to the north and west of the village site. Otherwise, crops depended on rainfall. The hilly lands east of the site were used as grazing areas. Jilya contained archaeological remains such as the foundations of buildings, rock-hewn tombs, and an ancient well. Khirbat al-Muqanna' (135131), a bit more than 1 km to the northwest, has been identified as the Philistine site of Ekron; excavations there were begun in 1981.
Overrun by the Giv'ati Brigade, Jilya fell to the Israelis during a 'clearing' operation in the Hebron foothills, south of Ramla, carried out during the Ten Days between the two truces of the war (8-18 July 1948). Israeli historian Benny Morris reports that the village fell in the first stage of the operation, on 9-10 July. The area residents fled with the approach of the Israeli columns, especially after the occupation of Tall al-Safi, which cut them off from the Egyptian and the Palestinian militia forces that were based in the east and south. Morris adds that most villagers sought refuge in the Hebron area.
There are no settlements on village lands.
The area is fenced in and inaccessible.