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Private Zoo In Rafah, Where Gazans Live Among Animals Amid War

According to the zoo's owner, four of the monkeys have already died and the fifth is so weak that it cannot even feed itself.

Gaza:

At Rafah Zoo, 12 weeks after the Israeli attack, dozens of destitute Gazans are camped between cages where starving monkeys, parrots and lions scream for food. .

The bombing, which reduced much of the Gaza Strip to rubble, forced almost all of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes. Thousands of people are now crammed into the southern city of Rafah, with shelters crammed into street corners and vacant lots.

At the private zoo run by the Gomaa family, plastic tents lined up near the animal enclosures and laundry was hung on a line between palm trees. Nearby, a worker tried to hand-feed tomato slices to the weakened monkey.

Palestinian man feeding monkeys at the zoo

A Palestinian man feeds tomatoes to monkeys at the Rafah zoo.

Many of the people taking shelter at the zoo are members of the extended Gomaa family, who lived elsewhere in the enclave before their homes were destroyed in the conflict.

“There are many families that have been completely wiped out. Now all of them remain in this zoo,” said Adel Gomaa, who was evacuated from Gaza City. “Living with animals is more compassionate than what you get from fighter jets in the sky.”

A Palestinian feeds monkeys at a zoo in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues.

A Palestinian feeds monkeys at a zoo in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues.

Zoo owner Ahmed Gomaa said four monkeys have already died and a fifth is so weak that it can't even feed itself, even if food is available.

He also worries about his two lion cubs. “We are feeding them dry bread soaked in water to keep them alive. The situation is really dire.”

He added that since the conflict began, the cub's mother has lost half her weight and switched from a daily diet of chicken to a weekly diet of bread.

Lions sit in a cage at a zoo in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

Lions sit in a cage at a zoo in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

A UN-backed report last week warned that Gaza was at risk of famine, with the entire population facing crisis levels of hunger. Israel stopped all food, medicine, electricity, and fuel imports to Gaza at the start of the war.

Aid supplies are now allowed to flow into the enclave, but security checks, delivery bottlenecks and the difficulty of navigating through the rubble of the conflict zone are hampering supplies. Many Palestinians there say they don't eat it every day.

At the zoo, a lioness and her cubs lay listlessly in their enclosure while children played nearby.

Sofian Abdeen, a veterinarian who has worked at the zoo, said animals were dying or falling ill every day. She said: “Symptoms of hunger, weakness and anemia are widespread. These problems are widespread. There is no food.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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