Defense for Children International said 22 Palestinian youngsters were
killed during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and Palestinian
militias have denied recruiting children for military missions.
The Saudi-owned news agency Elaph conducted an investigation into the
recruitment of teenagers by Islamic militias in the Gaza Strip and other
parts of the Arab world. Elaph, based in Beirut, visited military training
camps in the Gaza Strip that included teenagers.
"Several minors who trained in Palestinian military camps confirmed that
they were there of their own free will," Elaph reported in the series in
late May 2009.
Correspondents toured several such military training camps in the Gaza
Strip. One teenage fighter was identified as Mohammed, an 11th grader who
underwent weapons training at an unidentified militia camp in Gaza's Futuh
"A year ago, he [Mohammed] underwent training in carrying weapons, and
received permission to aid resistance fighters in night reconnaissance of
advancing Israeli military vehicles," Elaph reported. "He was also trained
to [aid the fighters] from a distance in armed clashes. Mohammed hopes to
die defending the homeland for the sake of Allah, and follow his comrades
who have already reached paradise."
The recruitment was said to have begun with Islamic indoctrination at
mosques controlled by Hamas or Palestinian militias. Teenage recruits
represented the youth wing of the militias at their school and eventually
were invited to training camp.
"There are institutions belonging to organizations dealing with
educating children and deepening their awareness by means of summer camps,"
Abu Mohammed, a senior agent in the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad, said.