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Rafah zoo animals forced to evacuate amid Israeli offensive

A lion evacuated from a zoo in the southern Gaza's city of Rafah is in a small enclosure on a cow farm near Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, May 29, 2024   -  
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Abdel Kareem Hana/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.


Workers at the Rafah Zoo had only a couple of days to evacuate the animals to a safe area when Israel launched its offensive in the southern city of Gaza Strip.

Three elderly lions as well as cats, guard dogs and turtles were left behind, Fathi Juma, the owner of the Zoo, said.

"We ran out of time and we had to leave the area and keep the rest of the animals in the zoo and of course those animals will die. In a maximum time of a week or 10 days, if no one goes and put food for them, or an organization or people who are concerned bring the animals to where we are, they will die because the animals cannot survive without food and water.”, Juma said.

Some of the animals made it out of Rafah and were evacuated to a cow farm in Khan Younis but they also also face hard conditions due to lack of food.

“This situation is disastrous. We only give them what is available such as canned food brought in aid such as chickpeas, fava beans and beef. We feed them whatever is available. The conditions are very bad, even their psychological status is bad. We now feed the animals not to make them feel full but only to survive for the second day.”, Samer Juma, a worker at the Zoo, said.

Southern Gaza has been largely cut off from aid since Israel launched what it called a limited incursion into Rafah on May 6. Since then over one million Palestinians, many already displaced, have fled the city.

Around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel must take over Rafah to eliminate Hamas’ remaining battalions and achieve “total victory” over the militants, who recently regrouped in other parts of Gaza.

The war between Israel and Hamas has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count.

Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

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