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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hamas militia operating 300 summer camps for 50,000 children

GAZA CITY — Hamas and allied militia groups have been recruiting children to attend summer camps.

Hamas has established 300 summer camps for an estimated 50,000 children throughout the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said the training included Islamic combat indoctrination, rudiments of light weapons, reconnaissance and sabotage, avoiding Israeli surveillance and infiltrating Israeli facilities.

"There is no real military training here," an organizer of one of the camps said. "But we do form a strong connection with the best of the campers so that they could join us at a later stage."

The Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad has been hosting 10,000 Palestinian youngsters in summer camps, Middle East Newsline reported. Children were taught rudiments of light weapons and rockets.

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"They are tomorrow's leaders," Hamas military commander Khalil Khayeh said.

On Aug. 10, 200 campers, dressed in Hamas military uniforms, presented a demonstration in a soccer stadium in Gaza City. The youngsters jumped through hoops of fire as Hamas gunmen fired rifles and detonated bombs.

The Jihad campers were also instructed on how to hold Kassam-class, short-range missile launchers. The campers were given plastic rather than genuine projectiles.

The opposition Fatah movement has not sponsored summer camps in the Gaza Strip. The movement has been largely driven underground in wake of the Hamas takeover in July 2007.

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