Animals in Gaza starving - Volunteers

04 Jan 2024 05:26pm
This photograph taken on January 3, 2024 shows dogs around damaged vehicles at the Erez border crossing between southern Israel and the Gaza Strip - Photo by AFP
This photograph taken on January 3, 2024 shows dogs around damaged vehicles at the Erez border crossing between southern Israel and the Gaza Strip - Photo by AFP

LONDON - Cats, dogs and other animals in Gaza are starving to death as Israel is preventing food and medicine from crossing the border, rescue volunteers have said.

Sulala Society for Animal Care is the only official rescue organisation in the territory and it is close to running out of supplies.

Hundreds of animals have already died of starvation while Sulala has only two bags of food left for the 120 cats and 30 dogs under its care, volunteers said.

Heavy fighting is preventing them from saving other animals while volunteers on the Israeli side of the border are not allowed to cross over and help out.

Many Palestinians have had to abandon their animals while fleeing the conflict, with some having to leave pets at the Egyptian border as the animals are not allowed to cross over.

There is now so little food left in Gaza that animals and people can no longer find it in rubbish bins, volunteers said.

Annelies Keuleers, a Sulala English language spokesperson, said the organisation’s founder Saeed Al Err was forced to leave hundreds of dogs in a shelter with the doors open and some food before evacuating south and has been unable to reach them since.

Speaking from outside Gaza, she said: "The biggest issue right now is food. In the beginning of the war, the first days, Saeed bought a huge amount of food, everything he could find, but it’s now running out.

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"In the beginning of the war, they picked up the disabled dogs because they knew they wouldn’t be able to survive on the streets and now they’re in a temporary shelter.

"They’re looking for a more permanent place to move south, but they have to take all the animals with them.

"It’s really challenging and stressful and especially for them, not knowing how many more times they will have to move and refusing to go without the animals.”

Sulala is part of an international group of animal rescue organisations that are calling on the Israeli government to allow animal food and medicine into Gaza.

Many people have been struggling to feed themselves since Israel began its blockade late last year and while some aid for people is now crossing over in trucks, animal food is not.

In Defence of Animals, an American animal welfare campaign group, has published an open letter to the Israeli Knesset and members of the war cabinet urging them to allow rescuers to help the animals.

Volunteers also want to access chicken farms that have been destroyed by missiles along the northern border.

Yael Gabay, one of the signatories and founder of Israel’s Freedom for Animals, said her organisation rescued a lot of turkeys, chickens, cats and dogs earlier in the war but her volunteers are now no longer allowed into Gaza.

She wants the Israeli military to allow her to take food into the Strip and to accompany her while she rescues abandoned animals from the warzone.

She told the PA news agency: "We really feel that there’s an opportunity to rescue so many other animals now in Gaza and also on the northern borders.

"We wish that the Israeli government would give us an opportunity to do that. And to provide food.”

Israeli soldiers have been giving water to some of the wandering animals and bringing some back in their tanks, she added, although they are prohibited from doing so.

One member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, said she is "very sceptical” that the authorities will take animal lives in war zones seriously.

Politician Yasmin Sacks Friedman has been pushing the Israeli government to support the animals and the volunteers trying to rescue them.

She said: "My life’s mission is to improve the state of the animals in Israel, and for two-and-a-half years in the Knesset, the ministry of agriculture has not been co-operative on improving the state of the animals inside the country.

"Like everything else relating to the treatment and rescue of animals in the past, at the end, the care and rescue is done exclusively by animal loving volunteers and activists, and this should not happen!” - BERNAMA-A Media/dpa