A Palestinian boy was mauled to death by a lion in a private zoo in the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to the coastal territory’s police force, run by the militant Hamas group.
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Police officers said 6-year-old Hamada Iqtiet had climbed the fence in the zoo in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, and reached an opening in the cage before the lion mauled him. An investigation was underway, they said.
The boy’s family disputed the account, saying Hamada — who was visiting the Asdaa Park with his mother and other family members, according to relatives — had only reached an outer fence, where the lion was standing, when he was attacked.
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It was the first known fatality from animals kept at private zoos in the crowded and impoverished Palestinian territory. Gaza has several small private zoos where animals are kept in deplorable conditions.
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The animals have suffered from repeated fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, neglect, starvation and lack of medical care. International animal welfare groups have carried out several missions to evacuate animals, especially lions, to safe havens in Jordan and Africa.