HELP FOR ANIMALS IN GAZA

Networking with animal rescuers near Gaza,  in both Palestine and Israel,  collecting money for animal relief in the
combat zones,  ANIMAL PEOPLE president Kim Bartlett helped to start a rescue effort less than 10 days after the shooting began on December 27,  2008- long before there was any clear sign of when the fighting might end,  despite rumors that Israel would pull back troops from Gaza before the January 19,  2009 inauguration of new U.S. President Barack Obama.

“We are now working with the Israeli charity Let The Animals Live to help us get medicine and supplies into Gaza,” reported Palestine Wildlife Society executive director Imad Atrash.   “There some of our friends with the ministry of agriculture, the veterinary department, and with other nonprofit organizations will help us.”
 
Atrash was also trying to arrange for Egyptian veterinarians to visit Gaza, if a safe way could be found to get them to where they were needed.  Many international relief charities had mobilized to help the human victims, but at least one relief worker was killed, prompting the United Nations to halt aid distribution to Gaza on January 10, 2009…

No one counted the animal victims. Television news reports showed dead and injured donkeys near at least one scene of aerial bombardment.
“The situation is very hard for both the animals and the people,” Atrash wrote, mentioning “donkeys, goats, dogs, cats,
birds, and many others.”
Reports from human welfare organizations indicated that thousands of chickens had died from lack of food, water, and
ventilation, resulting from lack of electricity and lack of fuel for generators.
Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals founder Mona Khalil reported, “I have two family members in Gaza.  Our friend Hana had saved two cats from along the border but troops did not allow her to take them into Gaza, and she had to take them back to Cairo. Now they are with ESMA. Now, from Gaza, Hana reports to me that she has seen at least 50 cats who have been killed.   Many stray dogs too are dead- that was her last conversation with me.  There are no animal groups who have been able to do anything to my knowledge,” Khalil said.  “The situation is very devastating:  no water, no electricity, no medicine – simply nothing – and it is impossible for any animal groups even if they were ready to help to know how to enter.”
Ahmed Sherbiny of the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends e-mailed, “I also discussed the possibility to send some medical supplies with our colleague Margaret Ledger of the Humane Center for Animal Welfare in Jordan, through the King Hussein Bridge.  She stated that the situation in the West Bank is even worse.  No one is allowed to travel from one place to another without permission and inspection by Israeli soldiers.  For this reason it is almost impossible to send any aid.”
“We are trying to help Imad pass the supplies into Gaza,” affirmed a spokesperson for Let The Animals Live.  “Let The Animals Live is also taking care of all the animals who were abandoned by Israeli families who left the bombed south,”   as result of the Hamas rocket attacks that prompted the Israeli military to invade Gaza – for example, 12 dogs rescued from Shederot on January 8,  2009.

The oldest no-kill animal rescue charity in Israel, Let The Animals Live also led animal relief efforts in the line of rocket
fire during the Israeli pursuit of Hezbollah militias into Lebanon in mid-2006.

“I have not heard anything from Gaza yet.  The situation is too critical,” e-mailed ANIMAL PEOPLE reader Ellen Moshenberg from Arad L’hai, Israel, who has often tried to help animals on either side of the lines during previous conflicts, “but meanwhile there have been requests for help from Ashkelon, which is constantly being rocketed.  Fleeing citizens are leaving animals behind.  SOS Pets Ashkelon is doing everything it can.”
A shelterless foster/rescue charity, SOS Pets Ashkelon just formed in 2008.  “All society members are volunteers–we have no paid employees–and are from different professions including medicine, veterinary care,  education,  law practice and high tech,”  said the SOS Pets Ashkelon web site,  which had not been updated to keep pace with events.
 
The Israeli newspaper Haaertz reported on January 11, 2009 that “Israel Defense Forces troops this week uncovered a school in the Gaza Strip rigged by Hamas militants with a large amount of explosives.  The school, located next to a Gaza zoo, was entirely surrounded by a fuse connecting to the explosives.”
The two-acre Gaza Zoo, also called the Heaven of Birds & Animals Zoo and the only zoo known to be in Gaza, is located between the Rafah and Brazil refugee camps near the border of Israel and Egypt…
 “Even at the zoo,  we sometimes complain about the aggressive behavior of some of the children,”  al-Shawa said.  “But we do not blame them.  We blame the violent environment – Israeli violence and Palestinian-Palestinian violence too.”

Merritt Clifton
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE

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