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Monday, September 20, 2010     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Hamas suspected as popular Water Park in Gaza goes up in flames

GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime was believed to have torched a new water park in the Gaza Strip.


Palestinian sources said about 25 gunmen stormed Crazy Water Park and set the entertainment facility on fire, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the masked attackers, believed to be members of Hamas's secret security units, beat and bound the two guards before pouring gasoline and torching the main buildings and tents on Sept. 19.

"The number of gunmen and the professional way they destroyed the park could only be the work of Hamas," a Palestinian source said.

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Crazy Water Park was regarded as the most popular resort in the Gaza Strip. But in August, amid complaints by Muslim clerics of mixing of the sexes, Hamas began to crack down on the facility, used largely by middle-income Palestinians as well as employees of non-governmental organizations.

"The gunmen handcuffed and blindfolded the two guards, who were inside the park, and took them to the guards' room after confiscating the keys of the park's buildings," the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said. "A number of gunmen attacked the security guard by beating him, set fire to the park's buildings and restaurants, including Al Badiya section, and then left."

"The two guards hurried up to one of the neighboring houses to break their handcuffs, when a force of civil defense arrived and extinguished the fire," the center said. "In addition, the Palestinian police arrived and opened an investigation in the attack."

The Hamas crackdown began with raids of Crazy Water Park and the eviction of patrons. The sources said the owner of the facility, Panda Tourist Co., was warned not to allow the mixing of the sexes.

In September, Hamas intensified measures against the 10-dunam facility, located southwest of Gaza City. On Sept. 5, Hamas, citing lack of official licenses, ordered the shutdown of Crazy Water Park.

The Hamas crackdown, conducted by the General Investigations Bureau, has extended to other entertainment facilities in the Gaza Strip. In mid-September, the Islamic regime closed down a restaurant after a woman was seen smoking from a water pipe. Hamas also shut down a horse club and ordered a prominent hotel to suspend operations for three days.

"PCHR believes that such actions are illegal and they raise concerns when the law enforcement bodies practice them or turn a blind eye to them," the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said.

Human rights groups said the arson was part of efforts by Hamas and its supporters to impose Islamic law throughout the Gaza Strip. No group has claimed responsibility for the arson, which was said to have destroyed Crazy Water Park.

The United Nations has also been the target of the Hamas crackdown. In May and June 2010, UN summer camps were attacked and vandalized by unidentified gunmen believed linked to Hamas. No arrests have been reported.

The Hamas Interior Ministry said the arson of Crazy Water Park was being investigated. The ministry did not elaborate.

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