A boy holds a 2-month-old lion cub at the zoo in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Dec. 22, 2017. (AP/Adel Hana) (AP/Adel Hana)
Gaza Lion Cubs

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Longstanding negligence and outbreaks of disease have killed many animals in Gaza over the years, including in its zoos, where they are starving and emaciated.

By AP and United with Israel Staff

The owner of a dilapidated Gaza zoo is blaming stormy weather for the death of four lion cubs.

Fathi Jumaa said Thursday that he covered the cage of the day-old lions with blankets ahead of Wednesday’s winter storm but found them dead the next morning at the small zoo in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

Most of the animals in the zoo were smuggled into Gaza from Egypt via underground tunnels a few years ago, before the Egyptian military destroyed the tunnels running beneath the border.

The wintry weather sweeping the region has made it especially hard for animals that lack proper care.

Longstanding negligence and outbreaks of disease have killed many animals in Gaza over the years, including in its zoos, where they are starving and emaciated.

In 2016, for example, Israel rescued an ailing, neglected lion from Gaza and transferred it to a zoo near Tulkarem. The transfer was coordinated by the PA Agriculture Ministry, COGAT (Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), Israel’s defense ministry and the Israel Natureand Parks Authority.

In other cases, animals suffer outright abuse. In an incident in July, at the height of the Hamas arson terror against Israel, the terrorist group displayed cruel animal abuse when it harnessed incendiary materials to a falcon and sent it toward Israel.

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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