Hamas bans dog walking in some parts of Gaza
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Hamas bans dog walking in some parts of Gaza

Prohibition ostensibly intended to protect fearful women and children, but canine lovers say animals going crazy at home

Palestinians watch dogs fight during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organised by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinians watch dogs fight during the first dog show in Gaza City, on February 5, 2016, organised by dog owners in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Hamas has banned walking dogs in populated areas of the Gaza Strip, Britain’s Telegraph reported.

The ban was introduced last month because some women and children are frightened of dogs, according to Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Gazan bank clerk Yasmin Shath, 28, told the newspaper “everyone tagged me in the notice on Facebook [about the new ban] because they know I am a dog lover. I thought: this can’t be true.”

Her dog, Raed (Arabic for thunder), a large German shepherd, lives in the family’s garage and used to enjoy walks on the Gaza beach. Since the ban was announced, Raed has not seen any daylight. Shath said he has become less friendly and has lost his appetite.

“Since he was imprisoned, he has become edgier. He’s different, he’s more hostile,” Suzanne Shath, Yasmin’s mother, told The Telegraph. “Sometimes he rejects food and he doesn’t want to eat. We have to play with him to help him work his appetite.”

The family is so taken with the German shepherd that to lift his spirits they brought home some sand and salt water from the Gaza beach.

Shath rejected the Hamas explanation of the ban. She said Hamas simply wants people to avoid distractions and only focus on their plight, which the terror group then leverages to pressure Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “They don’t want people to get busy with dogs, they want them to think only about politics, about resistance, to always be on and never to relax,” she told the UK paper.

A Hamas police officer said the ban is only applied in populated areas like city streets, beaches and markets. “The phenomenon of young men walking with their dogs in the streets has widely spread” of late, Ayman al-Batniji said. “It is neither of our culture nor of our traditions. Children and women feel scared when they see dogs,” he added. “Our duty is to maintain the safety of citizens.”

Batniji said dog owners can take their pets to the fields to walk them there. “We are not against dogs, we use dogs in our work,” he said. “The ban is simply to protect our women and children.”

While the notice announcing the ban did not specify a penalty for violators, dog owners – especially of large dogs that can be used by police – are afraid that their pets will be confiscated if they are caught walking their dogs where they’re not allowed to.

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