by Osama Rady, Omar
Othmany GAZA (Xinhua) -- Laziz the
tiger and 14 other animals were taken out of the
Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip on Wednesday by an international
animal welfare organization after living in cages for years in
the local zoo.
Aboard a truck of Four Paws, which
rescues animals in Third World countries, the 15 animals, which
also included monkeys, turtles, an emu, porcupines, a pelican, a
deer and eagle buzzards, left Khan Yunis Zoo in southern Gaza
and headed for new homes in Jordan and South Africa.
This was the third relief mission this year for Four Paws to
help animals at the Gaza zoo, where has been suffering a lack of
food and medicine and other basic supplies.
It was a sad day for owner Mohammed Oweda, who will close the
zoo after the departure of the 15 animals.
"I feel so sad for this, but the lives and safety of the
animals are more important than closing my business," Oweda
Oweda blamed the closure of Khan Yunis Zoo on the Israeli
blockade and the frequent wars between Israel and Hamas, which
has been ruling Gaza since 2007.
Dozens of animals died during a 50-day conflict between
Israel and Hamas in 2014, while many suffered injuries and
Oweda said the majority of the animals in his zoo died and
that he suffered an estimated loss of 20,000 U.S. dollars.
The evacuation of the 15 animals has not been easy for the
rescuers at Four Paws, which conducted lengthy negotiations with
zoo owners over the rescue mission.
A 13-member Four Paws team arrived in Gaza two weeks ago for
the operation, and work to catch and load the animals into
crates started Tuesday.
"It has been a very long day for the team. We succeeded in
spite of the challenges," Amir Khalil, a veterinarian with Four
Paws and member of the rescue team, told Xinhua.
Throughout the night, the team guarded the truck with the 15
animals in their crates and monitored their vital signs
regularly to make sure they are well.
Most of the animals will find a temporary home in a
protection center called New Hope in Jordan.
The only tiger, named Laziz, will be loaded in a new
transport crate once in Israel.
By Thursday, Laziz is expected to arrive in Four Paws Big Cat
Sanctuary in South Africa.
This was Khalil’s sixth visit in Gaza.
"I first came to help animals at Bisan Zoo after the war in
2014 and we transferred three lions to a rescue station in
Jordan," he said.
Khalil said his organization’s most recent mission was
transferring two lion cubs from Rafah City in Gaza to Jordan
It has not always been possible to move animals out of Gaza,
but Four Paws is doing its best to achieve positive solutions
for the animals, Khalil said.
Four Paws is now working to get a large piece of land from
the Palestinian government in Gaza to build a sanctuary in the
Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
The organization estimates that Gaza is home to hundreds of
animals that have been smuggled into the enclave over the past