WARNING: GRAPHIC PICTURES
Weak, hungry and traumatised - shell-shocked zoo animals are the latest victims in the Gaza conflict, heartbreaking images have revealed.
Caught in the crossfire of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that has so far claimed the lives of more than 1,960 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, the sights at the Gaza zoo "couldn't be sadder," reporters at the scene have said.
Starving lions claw desperately at the scorched earth in their mangled cages, crocodiles sit motionless in stagnant water and monkeys look on helplessly at the decaying carcasses of their mates and offspring.
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Zookeeper Wasef Hamad, who has risked his life daily in an effort to keep the remaining animals alive, told Al Jazeera the area experienced frequent Israeli bombings. According to Hamad, more than half the animals have been killed, with most being hit by shrapnel, while others have died of thirst.
"Staff members say that on top of the injuries some of the animals sustained during the violence, many also have not eaten in days because the zoo lacks funds to buy food, and they're getting virtually no assistance," Frederik Pleitgen wrote.
"The situation is very bad," the zoo's chief veterinarian told the reporter. "We can't get the animals out to clean the cages. Many of them are getting sick because they are weak and it is dirty. But we don't have any alternative places."
To help, "at least a little", the CNN crew bought six chickens at the local market for the zoo's staff to feed to the lions.
An Israeli army spokesman told AFP that the military was looking into allegations that it fired missiles in the Al-Bisan park area.