Photo Credit: Tube screenshot
Two of the Rafah Zoo lions, May 24, 2024.

The animals from the zoo in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, were moved to a barn in Khan Younis until the IDF operation in Rafah ended. However, the zoo’s three large lions could not be moved and were left in the Rafah facility. The zookeeper, Ahmed Juma, sent a message to the IDF soldiers operating in the city, asking them not to harm his lions: “I appeal to the Israeli authorities, these animals have nothing to do with terrorism.”


Perhaps, but Ahmed Juma is not a big fan of Israel. According to Ynet, environmental officials in Israel who tried to help the lions said earlier this week, “We offered to help the army move the lions to another country. The army wanted very much to help. But the Palestinians were not ready to accept any aid with which Israel is associated, nor move the animals to a different country, such as Jordan or Egypt.”

If the three lions are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, it would make sense for them to avoid being shipped to Egypt or Jordan, where they would be considered enemies of the state.

The Juma family has been operating a zoo in Rafah for the past 24 years, featuring lions, monkeys, and other animals. According to the zoo owners, the animals have been suffering from a lack of food since the start of the war and are also frightened by the bombings.

Juma said he had set quite a few animals and birds free. “I released some of the dogs, some of the hawks and eagles, some of the pigeons, and some of the ornamental birds,” he said. “I released a lot of animals because we didn’t have the cages to transport them to Khan Younis.”

In a different zoo in the Strip, in Gaza City, in 2017, the owners painted donkeys to resemble zebras. The owner, Nidal Barghout, explained that “due to more than two years of the tight Israeli siege on Gaza and the closure of the border crossings, I was unable to import zebras from Africa to our zoo. Then, an idea came to me: bring two domestic ordinary white donkeys, and paint them black and white… It is hard to smuggle a real zebra from Egypt to Gaza, firstly, it is too heavy, and secondly, it costs around $50,000 to buy a zebra from Africa and bring it to the border area and smuggle it in … however, I thought having a zebra in my zoo is very important for the children to see all kinds of jungle and desert wild animals.”

I expected that one of the most terrifying sights for Gazan children visiting the zoo back then would have been the zebras in the rain.

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