(photo credit: AP)
Only days after Hamas managed to secure the release of kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, Hamas militiamen succeeded in freeing a lioness that was stolen from a zoo in Gaza City two years ago.
The lioness, the only one of its species in the entire Gaza Strip, was stolen by members of the powerful Hasanain clan, which is known for its involvement in weapons and drug trafficking.
Although the Palestinian Authority security forces knew the identity of the thieves, they never made an attempt to restore the lioness. Even when members of the clan strolled the streets of Gaza City with their "pet," PA policemen never tried to arrest them.
Sources in Gaza City said some 50 members of Hamas's paramilitary Executive Force on Sunday night raided the homes of some of the Hasanain clan in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood and confiscated the lioness, which was suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion.
The sources said the leaders of the clan were known for their close ties with senior Fatah political and security officials in the Gaza Strip. During the raid, the Hamas militiamen also confiscated various types of drugs and dozens of rifles and pistols.
Some members of the clan were behind last year's shooting attack on the Nasser Hospital in Gaza City. At least three people were killed and six injured in the assault.
Hamas officials told The Jerusalem Post that the lioness would be returned to the zoo from where she was stolen after undergoing a series of medical examinations.
"This is yet another step toward restoring law and order in the Gaza Strip," said one official. "Ever since Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip and kicked out Fatah's security forces and their commanders, the situation here has improved. People are no longer afraid to walk in the streets."
The raid on the homes of the Hasanains was part of a major crackdown on large and influential clans in the Gaza Strip whose members have been responsible for the anarchy and lawlessness.
In the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen forced 12 clans to hand over their weapons and many stolen items. Most of the clans were affiliated with Fatah and enjoyed the backing of former senior PA security commanders.
Another Hamas official said his men had confiscated more than 12 tons of cocaine, heroine, marijuana and hashish during the clampdown, the largest operation of its kind since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
On Monday, Hamas announced that its gunmen managed to lay their hands on a gang of car thieves in Gaza City. It said the thieves confessed to stealing several cars belonging to residents who visited the Shifa Hospital.
"In the past three weeks we managed to seize more than 100 stolen vehicles," said a spokesman for Hamas's Executive Force. "Our security operation will continue until we put an end to the anarchy."
Over the weekend, sources close to Hamas announced that a prostitution ring had been uncovered in the central Gaza Strip. Three women were detained after one of them was seen throwing a newborn baby into a garbage bin. The three revealed the names of 15 male pimps who ran the ring, the largest of its kind in the Gaza Strip, the sources said. All the men were arrested and would face trial, they added.