Gunmen destroy Gaza City water park

Hamas had closed site on legal pretexts, after warning against men and women mixing at parties there.

Hamas water park fire 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Hamas water park fire 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Unidentified gunmen set fire Sunday to the Crazy Water Park, one of the Gaza Strip’s most popular entertainment sites.
Eyewitnesses said that at least 25 men participated in the predawn 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-Araj, a former cabinet minister in the unity government formed after the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006, 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 Gaza City 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 the 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. “Then they and another group of gunmen set fire to the two main buildings, a Beduin tent and 300 nargilas [water pipes].”
The Hamas government had ordered the closure of Crazy Water Park for three weeks under the pretext that it 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 facility 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 nargilas in public places.
Last week, the Hamas authorities closed down the Sama seaside restaurant, also in Gaza City, where a woman was seen smoking a nargila.
Human rights activists said that Hamas has recently stepped up its efforts to impose strict Islamic observances 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, because one of the hotel restaurants had allowed a woman to smoke a 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 asked to sign a pledge that they would not host such events in the future.
Ehab Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, 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 of the law,” but did not elaborate.
The Crazy Water Aqua Fun Park was opened in May. The landscaped park featured three swimming pools, a canal 100 meters long, three water slides, ponds with pedal boats, a restaurant, a cafe, and a quiet area shaded by a tent where adults could sit on carpets and listen to music.
Admission was NIS 10, but using the water slide cost another NIS 5, and going into the pool cost an extra NIS 20.
The atmosphere was secular, with popular tunes playing over the loudspeakers and women dressed in Western clothing.