Lion cubs stuck at Gaza crossing as border closes
A pair of lion cubs en route to a wildlife sanctuary in Jordan got stuck at a Gaza-Israel border crossing yesterday, after being kept as pets for almost a year by a family in the crowded coastal strip.
The cubs were taken from Saed Eldin al-Jamal's home in the border town of Rafah and transported to the Erez crossing with Israel.
By the time they arrived, the Israeli side of the crossing had closed and the cubs remained in no-man's land after border guards from the militant Islamic Hamas group, which runs Gaza, refused to let them back into the Palestinian territory.
Mr al-Jamal had bought the cubs when they were a month old from a zoo in Rafah, after it was hit during last summer's war between Hamas and Israel. The pair - the female, Mona, and her brother, Max - became well known across the Palestinian coastal strip, as Mr al-Jamal took them to parks or the beach where children who were brave enough would come up to pet them.
His family kept the cubs in their small, one-floor home inside a crowded refugee camp in Rafah, where they quickly became star attractions.
Earlier yesterday, Mr al-Jamal cried as he gave up the cubs to Amir Khalil from the British charity Four Paws International, which was to take them to Jordan. The charity had been trying for months to convince Mr al-Jamal to hand over the cubs, and he eventually agreed to "donate" them in return for about $2,500.
Mr Khalil said the cubs were a danger to the health and well-being of the al-Jamals,especially the children, and needed a place that was better for them too.