Earlier in the day, the cubs were taken from Gaza resident Saed Eldin al-Jamal, who had kept them over a year as pets at his family's home in the border town of Rafah, and transported to the Erez crossing with Israel.

By the time they arrived at the border, the Israeli side had closed and the cubs remained on no-man's land after Hamas guards refused to let them back into the Palestinian territory.

But after several hours, Hamas allowed them back in and the cubs' entourage checked into a Gaza hotel, together with the lions in crates, to wait there until the Israeli crossing reopens on Sunday.

The Israeli security branch responsible for the crossings said the lions and their entourage showed up out of the blue after the crossing had closed and without any prior coordination and appropriate preparations, unlike in a previous case involving lions.

Al-Jamal had bought the cubs when they were a month old from a zoo in the Gaza town of Rafah, after it was hit during last summer's war between Hamas and Israel.

He said the original owners of the small South Jungle Zoo were worried they eventually would not be able to afford to buy meat to feed the cubs as they grew.

The pair the female, Mona, and her brother, Max became well known across the Palestinian coastal strip as al-Jamal took them to parks or the beach where children who were brave enough would come up to pet them.

His family kept the cubs in their small, one-floor home inside a crowded refugee camp in Rafah, where they quickly became star attractions. Scores of visitors came to see the cubs play with al-Jamal's sons and grandchildren in the camp's narrow alleys.
Earlier Friday at their Rafah home, al-Jamal cried as he gave up the cubs to Amir Khalil from the British charity Four Paws International, which was to take them to Jordan.

The charity had been trying for months to convince al-Jamal to hand over the cubs. As time passed and concerns grew that the lions would become too big and attack people, al-Jamal relented and agreed to "donate" them in return for about USD 2,500.

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