An international welfare group is evacuating dozens of animals languishing in a ramshackle Gaza zoo to sanctuaries abroad.
Vets and volunteers from Four Paws International loaded some 40 animals and birds Sunday and headed to the Israeli border in the northern Gaza Strip en route to resettlement in Jordan and Africa.
The rescued animals include lions, foxes, monkeys and pelicans.
It marks the fourth and largest Gaza rescue mission by the Vienna-based organization since Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the Palestinian enclave in 2007. Israeli officials have long held that the Jewish state’s limitations on movement aim to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from transferring weapons into Gaza.
In 2016, the last animals were evacuated from what had been dubbed at the time “the world’s worst” zoo in Khan Younis, also in southern Gaza.
Some animals have died of cold and hunger in makeshift zoos as keepers failed to provide adequate care.
The zoo made headlines in February this year when the cash-strapped owner revealed he had declawed one of the lions there, so that customers could pay to play with her.
AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.