Gaza water park burned down after shut down by Hamas
LAST UPDATED: 09/19/2010 17:15
Unidentified gunmen set fire to "Crazy Water" park closed for allowing mixed bathing; witnesses say at least 25 assailants took part.
Palestinians check the damage at a water park Photo: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Unidentified gunmen on Sunday set fore to Crazy Water Park, one of the Gaza Strip's most popular entertainment sites.
Eyewitnesses said that at least 25 assailants participated in the pre-dawn attack. The gunmen beat the two night watchmen, bound their hands and confiscated their mobile phones before setting the complex on fire, they said.
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Manager Ala al-A'raj said that the water park was closed down by Hamas two weeks ago. He said that no one was injured in the attack, which destroyed the resort completely.
No group claimed responsibility for the arson and the Hamas government, which issued a strong condemnation, promised to pursue the perpetrators and bring them to trial.
Two human rights organizations also condemned the torching of Crazy Water Park and called for an immediate investigation.
"The attackers stormed the resort using a four-wheel drive vehicle," one of the guards told a human rights group. "They along with another group of gunmen, set fire to the two main buildings, Beduin tents and 300 nargilas [water pipes]."
Last week the Hamas government ordered the closure of Crazy Water Park for three weeks under the pretext that the place did not have a proper license.
Last month Hamas policemen raided the resort and expelled dozens of men and women who had gathered for a fast-breaking meal during Ramadan. The owner of the site was summoned for questioning and warned not to hold events where men and women sit together.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that Hamas has been targeting the water park because the owners violated an order banning women from smoking the nargila in public places.
Last week the Hamas authorities closed down the Sama sea-side restaurant in Gaza City where a woman was seen smoking the nargila.
Human rights activists said that Hamas has recently stepped up its efforts to impose strict Islamic teachings in the Gaza Strip.
They noted that last week Hamas closed down the Aseel Horse Club, also under the pretext that it was operating without a proper license.
Hamas policemen also raided the Beach Hotel and handed the owner an order closing it down for three days. The decision was taken because one of the hotel restaurants had allowed a woman to smoke the nargila.
Two weeks ago Hamas policemen also stormed two halls in Gaza City where cultural events were taking place and kicked out the guests. The owners of the halls were requested to sign a document pledging that they would not host such events in the future.
Ehab Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior, condemned the attack on Crazy Water Park, describing it as a "criminal case." He vowed that Hamas would do its utmost to capture the culprits. He added that the resort had been closed down because of "violations against the law," but did not elaborate.