Translations of this item:

  • If Hamas has the resources to fund and arm a new "Liberation Army" consisting of 17,000 fighters, why does it continue to demand that the international community allocate billions of dollars for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip?

  • Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into a huge training camp for jihadis and militiamen affiliated not only with it, but also with the Islamic State.

  • Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared that some of the boys would be recruited to fire mortars and rockets at Israel. And of course, he reiterated Hamas's true goal, namely the destruction of Israel. When Hamas talks about "liberation," it means it wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and replace it with an Islamic state.

  • Obviously, the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, do not see Hamas's cynical exploitation and abuse of Palestinian children as a war crime.

  • If and when the International Criminal Court convenes to consider "war crimes" in the Middle East, the first thing the judges should consider is how Hamas sent thousands of Palestinian teenagers to their deaths, and, as this was happening, how Abbas and the Palestinian Authority looked the other way.

For the past several months, Hamas leaders have been complaining that they do not have enough money to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the last war with Israel.

However, it appears that Hamas does have enough funds to train, arm and indoctrinate thousands of young Palestinian men and boys.

While thousands of Palestinian families who lost their houses during the war continue to live in public shelters throughout the Gaza Strip, Hamas recently established 18 camps for military training.

The Hamas military training camps, under the motto "Vanguards of Liberation," have attracted some 17,000 Palestinian males aged 15-21. The young recruits were trained how to use various types of weapons, including pistols, rifles and mortars. They were also "educated" about the need to eliminate Israel and "restore Palestinian rights."

Samir Abu Aitah, a 15-year-old boy who joined the Hamas-run militia, said: "I now feel very happy because they trained me how to use weapons so that I could fight against the soldiers of the occupation. The Jews have killed thousands of innocent people and that's why I decided to join the path of jihad (holy war) and fight against them with weapons. We want to expel the Jews from our occupied country."

Another 15-year-old boy, Mahmoud al-Kurd, said he really enjoyed being trained with weapons at Hamas's camps. "Our enemy understands only one language – the language of swords."

Al-Kurd's friend, Ismail Elayan, who is also 15, told reporters who visited the training camps: "I decided to join the camp because this will pave the way for liberating all of our country. This is our major goal."

Mohamed al-Najjar, 16, said he joined the training camps because he "loves martyrdom." He added: "I want to pursue the path of resistance until I'm martyred."

Hamas later held a "graduation ceremony" for the young recruits who are expected to serve in its future "Liberation Army." And when Hamas talks about "liberation," it means it wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and replace it with an Islamic state.

Young Palestinians at one of Hamas's 18 new "Vanguards of Liberation" military training camps in Gaza sport face-paint symbolizng of the map of Palestine from the river to the sea, January 2015. (Image source: Paltimes)

Hamas is even boasting that the young Palestinians who have just been brainwashed and trained on weapons will participate in the next war with Israel.

Young Palestinians aim assault rifles at one of Hamas's 18 new "Vanguards of Liberation" military training camps in Gaza, in January 2015. (Image source: Paltimes)

Speaking at one of the graduation ceremonies, Hamas co-founder and senior official Mahmoud Zahar declared that some of the boys would be recruited to fire mortars and rockets at Israel. And, of course, he reiterated Hamas's true goal, namely the destruction of Israel.

"These young men will soon be standing behind the rockets, which they will fire at every inch of Palestine until it is completely liberated," Zahar said. "These boys will liberate Palestine and the Aqsa Mosque. Hamas will continue to support the training camps and provide them with as much funds and weapons as they need. This will continue until we achieve our goal -- the liberation of Palestine."

So Zahar is actually admitting that Hamas is not facing a financial crisis, as it has no problem funding any program designed to poison the hearts and minds of Palestinian youths. Nor does Hamas have any problem supplying the youths with weapons, according to the Hamas leader.

Senior Hamas officials, including the head of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh (center), attend a graduation ceremony at one of Hamas's 18 new "Vanguards of Liberation" military training camps in Gaza, in January 2015. (Image source: Paltimes)

If Hamas has the resources to fund and arm a new "Liberation Army" consisting of 17,000 fighters, why does it continue to demand that the international community allocate billions of dollars for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip? The money that was spent on the "Vanguards of Liberation" training camps could have solved the problems facing thousands of Palestinian families who lost their homes during last summer's war (Operation Protective Edge).

But Hamas, which is first and foremost responsible for the tragedy of these families, is not interested in taking any part in the efforts to rebuild destroyed homes. Instead, Hamas seems to be more determined than ever to continue raising new generations of Palestinians on jihad and hatred.

Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into a huge training camp for jihadis and militiamen affiliated not only with it, but also with the Islamic State. By forming a new army that consists mostly of teenagers, Hamas is committing a crime against Palestinians in general and young people in particular.

This is all happening at a time when the Palestinian Authority [PA] in the West Bank continues with its threats to file "war crimes" charges against Israel. Obviously, the PA and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, do not see Hamas's cynical exploitation and abuse of Palestinian children as a war crime.

Hamas has made it clear that it plans to send the teenagers to launch rockets and mortars at Israel, with the hope that they would achieve "martyrdom." But this does not seem to bother Abbas or the Palestinian Authority, or even the international community.

If and when the International Criminal Court convenes to consider "war crimes" in the Middle East, the first thing the judges should look into is how Hamas sent thousands of Palestinian teenagers to their deaths and, as that was happening, how Abbas and the Palestinian Authority looked the other way.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

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