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Lion cubs turn into stars of Gaza family

March 20, 2015 4:17 P.M. (Updated: March 21, 2015 8:05 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Two lion cubs have become star members of a family living in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip as a result of the weak economy in the war-battered Palestinian territory.

A cash-starved zoo in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip sold the cubs to Saadi Jamal, a Palestinian Authority security employee who has taken them home -- to the delight of his four children and their neighbors.

For the past 10 weeks, "they've been living in the house like members of the family," he told AFP. The children in the three-room apartment and their local friends "play all day long with the cubs."

But this extended family comes at a price.

They gobble up half a kilo (one pound) of meat a day, a tall order in Israeli-blockaded Gaza where prices have soared since last summer's devastating war that killed more than 2,000, left 100,000 Gazans homeless, and large swathes of the territory in ruins.

"Once they turn five months," Jamal plans to make some money by leasing the cubs out to lunar parks, seaside resorts and restaurants.

Jamal has even received a $9,000 (8,400 euros) offer to buy them, but he won't say how much he paid the zoo.

The Rafah zoo's need for cash flow comes during a period where Gaza is struggling to rebuild under a strict blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt. Gaza's economic activity declined by about 15 percent in 2014 according to the IMF, which linked the decline to Israel's harsh bombing and shelling of the coastal enclave and slow progress on rebuilding.

(AFP/ Said Khatib)

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.

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