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Dozens of animals evacuated from Gaza zoo to sanctuaries

April 8, 2019 1:06 P.M. (Updated: April 9, 2019 12:18 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization, evacuated some 40 animals from the Rafah Zoo in the southern besieged Gaza Strip to sanctuaries in Jordan and South Africa, on Sunday.

Four Paws, which helps animals around the world, were forced to postpone the originally planned animal rescue mission in March due to the ongoing unrest in Gaza.

The mission was planned immediately after the manager of the Rafah zoo, Fathi Jumaa, posted video footage of a lioness being unprofessionally declawed.

The declawing video footage sparked outrage from rights groups worldwide, including Four Paws, calling it “an act of cruelty.”

On Sunday, veterinarians and volunteers from Four Paws evacuated animals, which included five lions, five monkeys, four ostriches, three peacocks, two wolves, a hyena, foxes, porcupines, and 10 squirrels, and plan to resettle them in sanctuaries in Jordan and South Africa.

During the mission, Jumaa said that “Gaza is a complicated environment for people and animals under the Israeli occupation.”

It is noteworthy that most of the animals in Gaza’s zoos were smuggled a few years ago from Egypt into Gaza through underground tunnels that ran beneath the border. The Egyptian army had destroyed these tunnels.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 1.3 million people in Gaza, about 68% of the population, were identified as “food insecure” in 2018.

International animal care groups have carried out several evacuation missions in recent years to relocate animals and birds in poor condition to sanctuaries outside Gaza.

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