Israel transfers sickly lion out of Gaza

 11 Mar 2016 - 0:00

Israel transfers sickly lion out of Gaza
File photo of lion cubs Mona and Max at a hotel in the Gaza strip. AFP /Mahmud Hams/ Representative photo


Jerusalem: Israel said it transferred an ailing lion from the impoverished and blockaded Gaza Strip to a Palestinian zoo in the West Bank on Thursday.

The lion was taken from a zoo in Rafah to the Erez crossing into Israel, said COGAT, a defence ministry body which coordinates Israeli activity in the Palestinian territories.

The lion was then driven to a zoo near Tulkarem in the West Bank, it said in a statement.

A COGAT spokeswoman said a Gaza agriculture ministry official had asked an Israeli counterpart for the transfer, at least on a temporary basis.

The Gaza Strip, run by Islamist movement Hamas and where 80 percent of the population rely on foreign aid, has three zoos which are no longer open to the public because of a severe lack of funding.

In one zoo, in the southern city of Khan Yunis, only a deer, a pelican, an ostrich, two porcupines and a tiger remain of the hundreds of animals bought in for its opening in 2007.

In July 2015, Israel facilitated the transfer to Jordan of two lion cubs taken in by a Gaza refugee camp resident who could no longer afford their high maintenance costs.

The previous year, three lions were also sent from the Gaza Strip to Jordan after the area of their zoo came under heavy Israeli artillery fire.

Between 2008 and 2014, the coastal territory has been devastated by three wars with Israel, which imposes a tight blockade designed to prevent Hamas from rearming.

Gaza's border with Egypt has also remained largely closed since 2013.