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Gaza crew drains pond to capture escaped crocodile

A 5-foot-9-inch crocodile that escaped its zoo enclosure two years ago was captured by a Gaza policeman and others in a sewage pond and returned to its cage Tuesday.

Hatem Moussa/Associated Press

A 5-foot-9-inch crocodile that escaped its zoo enclosure two years ago was captured by a Gaza policeman and others in a sewage pond and returned to its cage Tuesday.

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip — It took an Internet search, shark nets, and two weeks of floating in a sewage pond, but Gaza policemen said Tuesday they have finally captured a crocodile that was terrifying residents.

The 5-foot-9-inch crocodile escaped his zoo enclosure two years ago and crawled about a half-mile to a large sewage pit near the northern Gaza Strip town of Umm al-Nasser, said Lieutenant Colonel Samih al-Sultan, who led the hunt.

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‘‘He had a lot of spirit in him. He wanted to be free,’’ Sultan said, watching the crocodile in its new home in a pond with four other crocodiles in a zoo under construction in nearby Beit Lahiya.

‘‘We hope he lives a good life here with his wives,’’ he said.

Residents said they did not leave their houses in the evenings, fearing the reptile they say ate their ducks and goats.

‘‘We were afraid he would eat us,’’ said farmer Hassan Mohammed of Umm al-Nasser.

Waste-water workers discovered the crocodile in the pit about two months ago, Sultan said.

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Lacking experience in crocodile hunting, he said, he used the Internet to see how to catch the reptile. Fishing nets were recommended.

So a team of six policemen and fishermen sat in a boat in the sewage pit for two weeks, trying to catch the crocodile with the nets.

After several failed attempts, they drained the pond, leaving the crocodile with nowhere to hide. Then they used tougher shark nets to snare him.

Sultan said he grew to like and respect the reptile. He named him ‘‘sakher,’’ Arabic for ‘‘rock,’’ in praise of his stubborn attempt to remain free.

The crocodile was drugged and brought into blockaded Gaza through a smuggling tunnel under the Egypt-Gaza border four years ago, said zoo worker Emad al-Qanoua.

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