Hamas’ Camps For Children And Youth – A Means Of Indoctrination For Jihad And Martyrdom, Imparting Military Skills | #socialmedia | #children


Hamas recently opened registration for its annual summer camps in the Gaza Strip, including the “Pioneers of Liberation” camps, organized by the organization’s military wing, the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. This year’s camps, intended for various age groups, from junior high school students to university students, are called “Sword of Jerusalem,” which is the name given by Hamas to the latest round of fighting with Israel in May 2021. According to the website of ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam, the objective of the camps is “to fan the flame of jihad among the generation of liberation, instill Islamic values and train the hoped-for liberation army to free Palestine.”[1]


Advertisement for the “Pioneers of Liberation” camps: “Today at the training camps, tomorrow at the gates of Jerusalem” (T.me/Tlae3Camps)


Al-Qassam operatives register children to the organization’s summer camps (Tlae3Camps, June 13, 2021)

Since taking control of Gaza, Hamas has engaged in intense indoctrination to instill its extremist Islamic ideology among both children and adults, and the summer camps are one of the means to achieve this. For over ten years, Hamas’s camps for children, teens and young people have served as a tool for inculcating the organization’s extremist religious ideology of jihad, martyrdom and the glorification of terror and terrorists.  Attended by hundreds of thousands of participants every year, the camps cultivate a “spirit of resistance” and instill a commitment to uncompromising armed struggle against Israel aimed at liberating Palestine from the river to the sea, while also teaching a wide range of military and combat skills. Many of them are named after terrorists who carried out armed operations against Israelis, and are devoted to themes such as “the generation of return” (referring to the right of return) and “marching on Jerusalem.” 

In addition to Quran lessons, sports activities, games and entertainment, the camps offer extensive military indoctrination and activities, often carried out by members of Hamas’s military wing, the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. These activities include training with knives and firearms (in some cases with live ammunition); hand-to-hand combat; marching and foot drills, and tunnel combat. Campers also stage plays and enact scenes of fighting and capturing Israeli soldiers or firing rockets into Israel. Many activities are themed around the liberation of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, or deal with commemorating and glorifying terrorists.

Recruitment and registration for the camps are carried out on Hamas’s websites and social media pages, in the organization’s press, and by Hamas activists (often members of its military wing) in mosques and at central locations in the Gaza strip. The camps’ activities are extensively covered in the Hamas media and are documented on designated social media accounts.


Poster at 2015 youth camp quotes Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yasin: “Our strength is in jihad, our strength is in fighting and martyrdom; surrender is the road to humiliation” (Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photo, January 20, 2015)

Hamas officials, who visit the camps and attend their opening and graduation ceremonies, explain that the goal of the camps is to cultivate a generation raised upon the values of jihad and self-sacrifice, which will liberate all of Palestine and uproot the occupation.

Over the years MEMRI has published reports and video clips documenting the activity at the camps and presenting statements by Hamas officials describing their character and objectives. Below are excerpts from some of these MEMRI publications.

Weapons Training And Other Military Training And Activity At The Camps

 As stated, the activities at the camps include extensive military training, such as practice with weapons (including firearms), hand-to-hand combat, close order drills, and “tunnel combat” activities. Campers also enact scenes of fighting, and the camps’ graduation ceremonies often feature military displays and parades. Below are details, with pictures and videos showing the military activities at some of the camps. 

Training With Firearms


Rifle training at a 2014 camp (Facebook.com/Gazacamps2014, June 17, 2014)


Training with rifles at a 2016 summer camp (Alresalah.ps, July 18, 2016)


Children practice weapons assembly and disassembly at a 2016 summer camp (Facebook.com/896180390525345, July 16, 2016)


Rifle practice at 2015 camp (Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 27, 2015)

A MEMRI TV clip shows footage from a January 2015 of a youth camp organized by the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. The footage features young cadets demonstrating military skills such as the use of weapons, and simulating the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

Training With Knives, In Tribute To Jerusalem Stabbings

The 2016 summer camps were dedicated to the “Al-Quds Intifada” (i.e., Jerusalem Intifada), which is the Palestinian name for the wave of attacks against Israelis, especially in Jerusalem, that took place that year, many of which were stabbing attacks. As part of this theme, the campers received training in the use of knives in addition to firearms training, as shown in the photos below: [2]

Other Military Training

Camp activities also include training in tunnels. One camp even made use of a full-sized tunnel dug especially for training the participants (see below, in the section on the Al-Qassam weapons exhibition):


(Image: Twitter.com/GazaCamps2016, July 23, 2016)


Training in the use of tunnels in 2015 camp (Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 27, 2015)

The activity at a 2015 camp included training with shoulder-held rocket launchers, and in a 2014 camp teens paraded with dummy rockets.


(Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 29, 2015)


(Facebook.com/Gazacamps2014, June 17, 2014)

Also popular at the camps are enactments of attacks on Israelis. At the graduation ceremony of a 2017 summer camp in Rafah, cadets simulated the storming of an Israeli army outpost. One of the cadets “captured” a fellow cadet dressed in Israeli army fatigues and hauled him back into a tunnel. A teen announcer said that “the grandchildren of apes and pigs” had prevented the call for prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. To see a MEMRI TV video of  this enactment, click below.

In the final ceremony of another summer camp the same year, teens play-acted a scene of storming the security measures around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, stabbing and killing Israeli soldiers and “liberating” the mosque. Several dozen youngsters prayed outside a makeshift “electronic gate” manned by teens dressed as Israeli soldiers and carrying mock rifles. The group pelted the soldiers with paper rocks, and amid the ensuing attack, the announcer declared, “one martyr has fallen while carrying out a stabbing operation and killing one of the Zionist pigs.” Other teens, dressed as ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades militants, joined the fray, ultimately “blowing up” the security measures and “liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the defilement of the occupation.”


Campers play-act scenes of storming the Al-Aqsa compound, shooting Israeli soldiers and pelting them with stones.

To see footage of this enactment, click below:

‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Weapons Exhibition

At one of the camps, the Al-Qassam Brigades held an exhibition open to the public featuring weapons used by Hamas in operations against Israel. The weapons on display included sniper guns, mortars, anti-tank mines, Gaza-manufactured short-range Qassam rockets (types 1, 2 and 3), longer-range rockets (type M75, R160 and J80), and a Hamas-manufactured UAV. Also on display were an Israeli UAV and other Israeli gear and parts of gear that had fallen into Hamas hands. In addition, visitors were also invited to tour a tunnel dug especially for training the campers.[3]


Rockets displayed in the exhibition


Visitors touring the tunnel constructed at one of the camps

Glorification Of Terrorists

Many of Hamas’ summer and youth camps are named after terrorist who carried out attacks against Israelis, including against civilians. For example, one of the 2016 camps was named after Baha ‘Aliyan, a terrorist who participated in a combined stabbing and shooting attack on a Jerusalem bus on October 13, 2015, in which three people were killed and nine were wounded. The participants in this camp held a parade in honor of terrorists who carried out stabbing operations in the “Al-Quds Intifada.”[4]


Children display poster of terrorist Baha ‘Aliyan, captioned “The Martyrs Never Die; Their Blood Illuminates the Revolution” (Image: Facebook.com/aqsatvchannel, July 20, 2016)

A 2017 camp was named for Muhannad Al-Halabi, a man whose stabbing of two Israeli civilians in Jerusalem’s Old City in October 2015 sparked off the Al-Quds Intifada. Children at this camp took part in activities glorifying three other terrorists, members of the Jabbarin family from Umm Al-Fahm, whose killing of two Israeli policemen on July 14 sparked off the unrest in Jerusalem that year. [5]


Parade in honor of terrorists who carried out stabbing operations in Al-Quds Intifada

Senior Hamas Officials Visit The Camps, Praise Them For Instilling A Spirit Of Jihad And Training The Generation Of Victory

The importance Hamas attributes to the camps is reflected by the fact that its officials, including its most senior leaders, visit them and deliver speeches at their opening and graduation ceremonies. The officials’ statements clarify the camps’ fundamental objective, which is to cultivate a generation steeped in the culture of jihad and martyrdom that will wage armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine, no matter what hardships and international pressures it encounters.

Isma’il Haniya At Graduation Ceremony Of 2015 Camp: “The Al-Qassam Brigades’ Camps Are A Strategic Enterprise [Aimed At] Raising The Generation Of Victory And Liberation”

In 2016, for example, officials attending the summer camp graduation ceremonies commended the camps for preparing “the generation of liberation.” A recorded speech by Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash’al was played at the graduation ceremony of a camp in Dir Al-Balah on July 22. He said: “Hamas has two main goals: liberating Palestine and resisting the occupation… There is no room in Palestine for the Zionist entity, and the only way to remove it is though armed resistance.” Mash’al praised the Hamas military wing, the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, for “preparing the [young] generation by means of [its] Pioneers of Liberation camps, and [preparing] the steadfast and determined Palestinian people to liberate its land, its prisoners and its holy places, chief of them Al-Aqsa.”[6]

At a youth camp graduation ceremony in January 2015, Hamas leader Isma’il Haniya said: “The people’s rallying around the resistance will foil all of [Israel’s] plans to harm the image of Hamas and of the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades… The Al-Qassam Brigades’ camps are a strategic enterprise [aimed at] raising the generation of victory and liberation. Resistance and preparations for bearing arms against the enemy are no longer optional, but have become a culture embraced not only by Hamas, but by every Palestinian home and every Palestinian sector.”


Haniya and other senior Hamas officials at camps’ closing ceremony

Hamas Political Bureau Member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: The Camp Graduates Will Fire The Rockets In The Next Campaign For Liberation

Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said at the same ceremony: “The young graduates of the ‘Pioneers of Liberation’ camps will [fire] the rockets in the next campaign for liberation.”

He added: “We pledge not to withhold anything from you – not our weapons, not our money, not our efforts, and not our sweat. Generation by generation – and I don’t mean every decade… One class after another, one year after the other, whenever there is a school holiday, you will be on the military training grounds, until we accomplish our goal. Every year until Palestine is liberated, thousands will join the training camps, so will they arrive in the occupied West Bank [already] prepared. The phenomenon of the generation of liberation is not a fleeting one, but is rooted in reality. Perhaps tomorrow, they will be standing behind the rockets, firing them at every inch of Palestine in the war of Judgment Day – the war for the liberation of Palestine. The youth of liberation are the near future generation that will fire rockets at the Zionists in the next liberation campaign against the [Zionist] entity…

Hamas political bureau member Khalil Al-Haya, who also spoke at the closing ceremony, called for “uniting the ummah’s guns and strength against Israel, its major enemy…” Al-Haya said further: “All guns and efforts must be trained on the enemy, and all the banners must unite under a single banner against the occupation, in order to realize our final goal of bringing it to an end… The Pioneers of Liberation are a clear message from the Al-Qassam Brigades, indicating that resistance activity will continue until complete liberation [is achieved]”. Al-Haya emphasized that Hamas is continuing to train the next generations “despite the difficulties and obstacles that the resistance faces, namely the siege, and restrictions a regional and international level… We say to the world that we are preparing this generation to contend with the enemy in the future…”[7]


span style=”font-size:10.0pt”>Poster at 2015 youth camp quotes Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yasin: “Our strength is in jihad, our strength is in fighting and martyrdom; surrender is the road to humiliation” (Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photo, January 20, 2015)

Hamas Official Dhiab Al-Jarou At 2017 Ceremony: These Youths Are The Hope Of The Muslim And Arab Nation, Which Insists On Following The Path Of Jihad

Hamas official Dhiab Al-Jarou said at a 2017 graduation ceremony of a camp in Deir Al-Balah: “The Palestinian Knights summer camps convey a valuable message to the Palestinian people about training the generation of liberation and jihad… These youths are the hope of the Muslim and Arab nation, which insists on following the path of jihad and resistance until [it achieves] liberation from the Israeli occupation.”

Hamas officials stress the religious aspect of the indoctrination carried out in the camps.  At the general opening ceremony of the 2017 summer camps, Dr. Nasim Yasin, deputy head of the Palestinian Clerics Association in Gaza and member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, stressed the importance of religious education for the sake of liberating Jerusalem and Palestine: “Liberation will be achieved only by youths who are educated in mosques. Liberation requires training generations. We are raising this generation based on the Quran, so that it carry out the mission entrusted to it, [including] the return to Jerusalem, the destination of the Prophet’s Night Journey.”[8]


From left to right: Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, Isma’il Haniya and Ahmad Bahar at a 2016 camp graduation ceremony (Alqassam.ps, July 23, 2016)

Hamas Conducts Widespread Campaigns To Advertise Its Camps: At Street Booths, In Mosques, In Its Papers And Online

Hamas devotes extensive efforts to publicize the camps and encourage Gaza youths to join them. In 2015, for example, the Al-Qassam Brigades launched a widespread campaign to promote its youth camps, called “the Liberation Pioneers,” advertising them on social networks, on Hamas and Al-Qassam Brigades websites, at special events in public places frequented by youths, and more.[9]

On June 12, 2015, Hamas’ daily Filastin announced that registration for the Liberation Pioneers camps was beginning. It stated: “The martyr ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has opened registration for the Liberation Pioneers military camps throughout Gaza. The Brigades have called to register via special bulletin boards placed in mosques and public places around Gaza, and stated that registration would commence on Saturday, June 13… The Al-Qassam Brigades stressed that the camps aim to “create a nucleus for the future liberation project,” and will include “sermons, displays of courage, training in military skills, live fire exercises, field training, civil defense classes and first aid.”

Leaflets circulated by the Al-Qassam Brigades announcing the opening of registration for the summer camps featured the camps’ anthem:

“The Liberation Pioneers camps,

On the path of resistance we march until liberation,

Our eyes turned towards the captive Al-Aqsa [mosque],

We have not forgotten our prisoners, the dawn of their freedom is near,

The return to our country is a right we will not relinquish,

We [come] from our people and return to it, our blood is sacrificed for young and old.”


Al-Qassam Brigades leaflet announcing Liberation Pioneers summer camps

Summer Camp Registration Points Throughout Gaza – Especially In Mosques

Camp registration points have sprung up throughout the Gaza Strip, and especially in mosques. They typically include a registration table with two or three activists, adorned with Hamas flags and signs, and giant posters of the movement’s leaders and of Al-Qassam Brigades commanders who were killed. The activists are highly visible and appear in full military regalia with covered faces and combat gear. They also display their weapons or place them in a prominent location during the registration. Alongside the armed activists carrying out the registration itself, additional armed activists stand nearby, dressed in a variety of military uniforms.

Pictures in Gazan media and social networks show youths flocking to the registration points. Though Hamas officially declared the camps open to youths 15 and over, there is a visible presence of children younger than 15 at the registration points and the mosques where registration is taking place.


Armed Brigades members recruiting youths for the summer camps at a mosque in Gaza City’s Shaja’iyya neighborhood.


Children gather around armed activists at a registration point; the banner in the background commemorates military wing commanders who were killed in battle.


Children gather at a registration point


Registration point in Gaza’s Al-Rimal neighborhood

Criticism For Use Of Mosques

A website associated with Fatah condemned the use of mosques to recruit children, stating that “many Palestinians in Gaza criticized the transformation of mosques into registration points for Hamas camps, accusing the movement of exploiting places of worship to attract and recruit youths and of benefiting from the increased presence [of children] at Ramadan prayers. Since its establishment, Hamas has used mosques as a contact point with residents; it also imprisoned and tortured residents inside mosques during its coup in Gaza.”

Hamas Promotes The Summer Camps On The Ground

Another element in Hamas’s promotional campaign, which is meant to impress youths and entice them to register, is displays put on by the Al-Qassam Brigades in public places. An event that took place on the Gaza beach boardwalk featured loud rhythmic music and fiery speeches by Hamas leaders played on loudspeakers. The event also featured children and youths – likely graduates of previous camp sessions – demonstrating acrobatics, with older youths conducting a kind of military parade, dressed in uniforms and painted in camouflage colors. They also displayed martial arts, and a 4×4 truck carrying armed activists drove along the boardwalk while playing loud music and honking its horn.


Martial arts display on Gaza boardwalk


Armed fighters during event on Gaza boardwalk


Youths participate in street rally promoting summer camps


Poster for summer camps in Rafah

Online Campaign To Recruit Youths For Summer Camps

The Al-Qassam Brigades also turned to social media to publicize their summer camps, especially to Facebook but also to Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter accounts affiliated with Hamas and its supporters. It posted videos and banners produce by Hamas’s media bodies to generate interest and excitement about the camps.


The Liberation Pioneers Facebook page presents military training as a step towards liberation Jerusalem and Palestine


‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades poster praising Liberation Pioneers camps, along with quote from the Koran (18:13): “Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.”

 


[1] Alqassam.ps, t.me/Tlae3Camps, June 13, 2021.





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