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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hamas trains teens at military camps in Gaza

LONDON — The Hamas regime has been training teenagers as young as 14 at military camps in the Gaza Strip.   

Arab sources said Hamas and several Palestinian militias have recruited high school students for military training. The sources said the teenagers were taught basic combat skills as well as the use of explosive belts for suicide missions.

"In the war against Israel, there were more than 100 children trained to attack Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip," an Arab source in the Gaza Strip said. "Some of them ran away and many of them were killed."

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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.

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"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 district.

"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.

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