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Animals evacuated from Gaza zoo

April 7, 2019

The Vienna-based Four Paws rescued the animals, who had been suffering the effects of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. They have also saved animals kept in former "Islamic State" territory in Iraq.

A truck carrying rescued animals
Image: Reuters/M. Salem

More than 40 zoo animals were evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Jordan on Sunday, after the squalid conditions brought on by the 10 years of Israeli blockade forced an animal welfare group to act. The group included five lions, a wolf, and several monkeys.

The Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza is the oldest in the area, but the dire economic situation and the lack of electricity in parts of the Gaza Strip have made it impossible for the owner to keep it up. Four lion cubs died of the cold in January, and the zoo recently came under fire for declawing another lion so that guests could pay to play with her.

Since its 1999 opening, many animals have also been killed during bombing raids.

That's when the Vienna-based organization Four Paws decided to step in. They were originally supposed to rescue the animals in March, but had to call the operation off because of renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

"The zoo has been in a bad situation in recent years due to economic and political turmoil," said Amir Khalil, a veterinarian for Four Paws. "Most of the animals had a sort of traumatization."

Four Paws spokesman Martin Bauer said they got the permission of both Hamas and Israel for the move, which was the largest the group has ever undertaken. They had previously rescued a tiger from Gaza and a lion and a bear from a zoo in the former "Islamic State" stronghold in Mosul, Iraq.

es/jlw (AP, AFP)

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