The Gaza Zoo reeks of death. But zookeeper Emad Jameel Qasim doesn't appear to react to the stench as he walks around the animals' enclosures.

Watch video of Gaza zoo carnage

A month ago, it was attracting families - he says the zoo drew up to 1,000 visitors each day. He points at the foot-long hole in the camel in one of the enclosures.

"This camel was pregnant, a missile went into her back," he tells us. "Look, look at her face. She was in pain when she died."

Around every corner, inside almost every cage are dead animals, who have been lying in their cages since the Israeli incursion.

Qasim doesn't understand why they chose to destroy his zoo. And it's difficult to disagree with him. Most of them have been shot at point blank range.

"The first thing the Israelis did was shoot at the lions - the animals ran out of their cage and into the office building. Actually they hid there."

The two lions are back in their enclosure. The female is pregnant, and lies heavily on the ground, occasionally swishing her tail. Qasim stands unusually close to them, but they don't seem bothered by his presence.

As he takes us around, he is obviously appalled at the state of the animals. The few animals that have survived appear weak and disturbed.

"The foxes ate each other because we couldn't get to them in time. We had many here." There are carcasses everywhere and the last surviving fox is quivering in the corner.

The zoo opened in late 2005, with money from local and international NGOs. There were 40 types of animals, a children's library, a playground and cultural centre housed at the facility.

Inside the main building, soldiers defaced the walls, ripped out one of the toilets and removed all of the hard drives from the office computers. We asked him why they targeted the zoo. He laughs. "I don't know. You have to go and ask the Israelis. This is a place where people come to relax and enjoy themselves. It's not a place of politics."

Israel has accused Hamas of firing rockets from civilian areas. Qasim reacts angrily when we raise the subject.

"Let me answer that with a question. We are under attack. There was not a single person in this zoo. Just the animals. We all fled before they came. What purpose does it serve to walk around shooting animals and destroying the place?"

Inside one cage lie three dead monkeys and another two in the cage beside them. Two more escaped and have yet to return. He points to a clay pot. "They tried to hide", he says of a mother and baby half-tucked inside.

Qasim says that his main two priorities at the moment are rebuilding the zoo and taking the Israeli army to court. For the first, he says he will need close to $200,000(Dh734,000) to return the zoo to its former state - and he wants the Israelis to cover the costs. "They have to pay me for all this damage."

We ask him why it's so important for Gaza to have a zoo. "During the past four years it was the most popular place for kids. They came from all over the Gaza Strip. There was nowhere else for people to go."

Has Israel gone berserk and lost all sense of reasoning? Should it be tried for war crimes at The Hague?

Your comments

Looking at the appalling conditions they were kept in, I think the animals were better off dead. The lion enclosure is hideous. Animal rights would go spare.
Posted: January 26, 2009, 16:03

This shows how power could make people inhumane. Everyone from Saddam Hussain to Bush to now Israel have misused their power. My heart cries for these animals.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: January 26, 2009, 15:21

I was once told that a soldier without a war is like a chimney in the summer. When will we understand that no matter who the soldiers are, when higher commanders tell them to go to war, they unleash all hell on the most innocent, from the bird on the tree to the child in his or her mother's arms. War should have been made illegal a long time ago, whatever the reason, and countries producing and selling arms named as part of the true axe of evil.
Selma Akbik
Posted: January 26, 2009, 15:12

Well this is quite upsetting that rational doesn't exhist in these people-- it is such a supremist behaviour to kill all apart from your own. Our leaders should do something about it.
Maz Kamal
Posted: January 26, 2009, 14:05

This atrocity towards these 'innocent' animals speaks off how cruel and brutal those killers are. Cant expect better fate for animals from those people who were chasing and shooting elderly people, children and infants at will.
Abdul Samad
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: January 26, 2009, 11:37

The whole world should know about this unhuman act of Israelis. They are not human beings. They know only killing, killing and killing. They are either killing human beings or animals. They don't care. Isrealy army should be draged to the court for their war crimes.
Yaqoob Ali
Posted: January 26, 2009, 11:29

Israelis are mad! They are out of their minds! They should be tried and I do hope they would be found guilty of all the killings they have made.There are no excuses for their actions.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: January 26, 2009, 10:17

Even innocent animals are terrorists in Gaza, not just innocent children. Please check under the corpses to see if they had any weapons secreted!
Steve Manos
Glastonbury, Connecticut,USA
Posted: January 26, 2009, 09:01

Israel has defenitely gone berserk in everything not only killing animals but humans as well.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: January 26, 2009, 09:00

There is a fact that all humans should accept with shame. The world with all its living organisms can sustain without humans but never vice versa. Animals kill only to feed on, its an instinct provided by nature whereas we harass/kill them for anything and everything. It's time we reflect on this and change, the earlier the better
Tina Vibin
Posted: January 26, 2009, 08:50

Israelis thought that these animal were also part of Hamas, so they killed them as for them animal or people doesn't make a difference.
Posted: January 26, 2009, 08:40

An expat australian who can only quote the great humanitarian Mahattma Ghandi " you can tell the soul of a nation by the way it treats wildlife " So sad that humans have stooped even another rung lower , if that is possible
Malcolm Arnold
Posted: January 26, 2009, 08:18

This act clearly shows that aim of Israel was not the dismantling of Hamas network but the aim was to destroy the infrastructure, population whether humans or animals of Gaza. After seeing these barbaric acts of true terrorism there should not be any peace negotiations until Israel pays for all the destruction it has caused in Gaza. We can now say that Israel is the master of terrorism.
Posted: January 26, 2009, 08:11

I am shocked and numbed at this grotesque display of sheer insensitivity. What 'war crimes' could these poor creatures have possibly committed to have been subject to such tremendous pain and torture? This mindless act of violence has crossed all limits of cruelty and sometimes I wonder what this world we live in and call our home is coming to. Is this the kind of world we want our children to grow up in?
Shiuli Dutt Dey
Posted: January 26, 2009, 08:07

This shows the true nature of the Israelis. They did not hesitate to shoot poor animals, small kids and helpless women. The UN should impose sanctions on Israel without a second thought. This is inhuman and un-tolerable.
Posted: January 26, 2009, 08:05

Israel must be tried for war crimes that nobody has committed in the history of mankind. This is total barbarism.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: January 26, 2009, 07:57

It is time for the whole world to make clear to the Israeli Government that their conduct and policies are unacceptable, and to impose a total arms ban on Israel and dis-arm them. It is time for peace, but real peace, not the solution by conquest which is Israel's real goal but which it is impossible for them to achieve. Israelis are not simply war criminals; they are fools.
Jennifer Enmeier
Palm Beach,USA
Posted: January 26, 2009, 06:34

Now I've seen it all. This shows the true nature of these parasites. There is no excuse for this.
Michael Brubaker
Gold Hill,USA
Posted: January 26, 2009, 06:34

These people in Tel Aviv said they wanted to restore their deterrence capability. By killing 400 children, destroying buildings from the air, the massacre of helpless, caged animals - what did they achieve ? instead of restoring their capability of deterrence, thei strenghthend the resolve to resist these cowardly monsters with any means available.
Susanne Scheidt
Posted: January 26, 2009, 06:04

Israel has not gone berserk, nor has it lost all sense of reasoning. Israel was founded on bloodshed, brutality, and murder. I am not surprised by this act of cruelty. It is yet another testiment to the wickedness of the zionists Israelis. They have been murdering women and children for decades. How can you expect them to suddenly feel mercy and spare the animals? There is nothing new here. They should have been tried for war crimes a long time ago.
Eyad Barakat
Posted: January 26, 2009, 02:31