Omar Ghraieb
The Media Line
September 20, 2010 - 12:00am

[Gaza City] Gaza is abuzz over the torching on Sunday of the beleaguered strip’s sole water park on Sunday. What would in many other parts of the world be an unnoticed incident of vandalism, the attack on the Crazy Water Park has stirred a media frenzy, driving every local and international human rights organization in Gaza to make statements, followed later by responses from representatives of every Palestinian political faction. According to local police and witnesses, an estimated 25-masked gunman pulled up to The Crazy Water Park on Jeeps at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning and broke into the resort. The gunmen tied and blindfolded the guards, stole their mobile phones and then roamed the entire resort. They set four buildings in the resort on fire: the administration building, a building containing the heritage and Bedouin corners, and two buildings housing the resort’s headquarters. Local police arrived on the scene long after the gunmen had left. They are currently conducting an investigation into the incident and have vowed to pursue and prosecute those found responsible for what police are calling an “act of vandalism.” Still in shock, the park owners quickly rushed over after hearing about the arson episode, and immediately called a special meeting for the administration board to discuss the attack and how to respond to it. One of the owners, Ala’ Al Deen Al A’raj, said he holds the Hamas-run government in Gaza accountable for the incident. “The resort had been shut down due to a decision by the General Attorney to close the resort for 14 days, for no apparent reason,” he told The Media Line. “This makes the resort the local police’s responsibility to protect, but the police failed to do this since they consider the resort private property.” Following the arson, which has created much controversy in Gaza, the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Gaza promptly issued a statement about the event. Ehab Al Ghussein, a spokesperson for the ministry, told The Media Line that they were working hard to uncover the truth about the incident and bring those responsible to justice. He also denounced Al A’raj’s statements, saying in a statement that the government bears no responsibility for the incident and no one should link the closure resolution with this act of vandalism. The owners speculated that the resort may have been targeted because they had ignored the latest government resolution prohibiting hookah in public places. All hookahs and the cafeteria were completely destroyed and set ablaze in the attack. The Beach Orient-House, one of Gaza’s most upscale hotels, was recently warned to start implementing the hookah ban by Hamas government officials, who closed the hotel for three days until its managers fully committed to instituting the ban. Locals have speculated that the decision to close The Crazy Water Park and the Beach Orient-House might also related to notions of moral preservation as both establishments have swimming pools. The owners of the scorched resort plan to meet with Vice President of the Palestinian Legislative Council Dr. Ahmed Bahar to discuss creating a new mechanism that would link government security personnel to local resorts to protect private property. The Gaza-based human rights organization Al Mazen denounced the arson, stating that local resorts and attractions should be better protected and that an investigation should immediately be launched to hold those responsible to account. The owners confirmed that they would begin rebuilding the damaged parts of the resort as soon as possible, saying that their losses are huge and the park’s reconstruction will cost a fortune. People on the Gaza streets also expressed frustration at the fire. Locals say The Crazy Water Park was a place they could turn to when they felt stressed and a place that brought their children immense joy. Locals are also demanding an urgent investigation and say they hope the resort will re-open soon.


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