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Tuesday, August 23, 2011     GET REAL

Summer camp, Hamas style: School kids get paramilitary training

TEL AVIV — Israel's intelligence community is tracking Hamas military training for youngsters in the Gaza Strip.


A report by the intelligence community's open-source arm asserted that Hamas was training thousands of young men and women in military skills. The report said the Hamas regime harassed its rival, the United Nations, which also operated summer camps in the Gaza Strip.

"Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip regard the summer camps as a means for inculcating their ideological values and nurturing the next generation of operatives and supporters," the report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said.

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The report, dated Aug. 7, said Hamas was using its summer camps to combine Islamic indoctrination and paramilitary training, Middle East Newsline reported. The summer camps have been operating from June through August and included an estimated 50,000 elementary and high school students. In contrast, the UN camp network contained 250,000 Gazans.

Still, Hamas enrollment, overseen by senior official Mussa Al Samak, was far greater than in 2010, the report said. Hamas employed its Izzedin Kassam military wing to teach youngsters shooting skills, hand-to-hand combat, rappelling and crawling under barbed wire.

"In some cases they carry wooden rifles, but some of the older children also use real rifles," the report said.

Older campers were instructed directly by the Hamas military. Izzedin Kassam held a one-seek seminar for 100 youngsters ages 13 to 18. At the graduation ceremony on July 29 and attended by senior official Mushir Al Masri, the cadets wore military uniforms and demonstrated such skills as disassembling and reassembling automatic weapons, abducting an Israeli soldier, blowing up an Israeli main battle tank and rappelling from buildings.

The Palestinians were also mobilized for political support of Hamas. This included protests in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross and a demonstration to support a flotilla of ships to the Gaza Strip, under siege by Israel.

Hamas tried to stop Palestinians from enrolling in UN Relief and Works Agency camps — which operate six-week programs — and in some cases employed violence and arson. The report said Hamas security forces harassed UN operations and accused administrators of corrupting Palestinian youngsters. In June, Hamas supporters forced UN to close summer camps in Khan Yunis and Rafah.

"Hamas mobilized the websites, local radio stations, and TV channels it controls for the campaign. Hamas' key message was that its summer camps teach Islamic values rather than focusing solely on leisure and entertainment, as UNRWA does in its camps," the report said. "Hamas often condemns the harassment of UNRWA's summer camps; however, so far it has taken no effective, decisive action to put an end to this yearly recurring phenomenon."

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