The Heartbreaking Story Of The Gaza Cubs

When lion cubs die, you know things are bad. If they were apparently born to personify the Palestinian struggle, it might be even worse. On Thursday, two three-day-old lion cubs suffered a seemingly avoidable death at the Hamas-run Bissan Zoo in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza. The twin cubs were the offspring of two lions which had been smuggled from Egypt through the underground tunnels, and had been hailed by Hamas as a symbol of the Palestinian resistance.

The cubs had been born healthy, according to reports, and no cause of death has been announced. It's speculated that they died because essential vaccines could not be smuggled through the same tunnels their parents had come from due to a blockade by the now military-run Egyptian government. There was no resident vet at Bissan Zoo, and no one with adequate experience of dealing with lions, said Gaza veterinarian Saud Shawa. He said he wasn't surprised that the cubs had died, which somehow makes everything feel even worse.

Born on the anniversary of last year's eight-day conflict with Israel, the cubs were named Fajr— after the long-range rockets Hamas fired across the border into Israel — and Sijil, which means stones of clay, and is the name Hamas gave the conflict. So the cubs' death has enormous symbolism.

Bissan Zoo isn't actually the only Palestinian zoo and it might not even be the region's most heartbreaking. At Qalqilya Zoo in the West Bank, the owner/founder/veterinarian/self-taught taxidermist have mixed live animals, found by locals, with the stuffed corpses of animals killed in the Second Intifada. And in another Gaza zoo, stripes had been painted on a donkey to pass it off as a zebra after the zoo's two authentic zebras had died.

If this blockade is killing cubs, we should probably worry about what it might do to the 1.6 million residents on the Gaza Strip. Some of whom, due to the Israeli blockade, rely on the Egyptian tunnels to smuggle in everything from livestock, food, medicines, and building material to illegal drugs and weapons. And zoo animals