For the third running year, thousands of Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip are receiving military training as part of Hamas's summer camps.
The camps, which are being held under the banner "Vanguards of Liberation," are aimed at preparing children as young as 15 for fighting against Israel. More than 25,000 children have joined this year's Hamas camps, according to Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.
What is most disturbing about this practice is that the families are not hesitant to send their children to be trained as future jihadis in the war against Israel. On the contrary, many of the families interviewed in the Palestinian media in the past few days said they were proud to see their children being taught how to use various types of weapons.
Rashed Anwar Abu Diqqa attends one of Gaza's Hamas-run military summer camps. The teenage boy, shown holding an assault rifle, says "I go to the summer camp because it teaches young people lots of useful things. (Image source: MEMRI)
Only a few Palestinians have dared to speak out against Hamas's exploitation of children. Palestinian activist Eyad al-Atal criticized Hamas for "depriving an entire generation of Palestinians of their childhood." He said that apart from creating new supporters of the Islamic State, the military training of the children was in violation of human rights principles.
Addressing the Hamas leaders, the al-Atal said: "Teach your children how to play, how to smile, how to rejoice. Build for them an institution for education and entertainment that would raise them on the love of Palestine and not how to get themselves killed."
It is also disturbing to see how international and Palestinian human rights organizations, especially those claiming to defend children's rights, are turning a blind eye to this large-scale child abuse by Hamas. These organizations only care about children's rights when there is a way to throw all the blame on Israel.
As in the past two years, the summer camps are being held in bases belonging to Hamas's armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam, throughout the Gaza Strip. The declared goal of the camps to is to "prepare a new generation of Palestinian youths spiritually, mentally and physically for the battle to liberate Palestine." When Hamas talks about the "liberation of Palestine," it is not referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, but to the whole of Israel. In other words, these Palestinian children are being educated and trained to prepare for joining the war aimed at destroying Israel.
The children are being taught that their role models are Hamas suicide bombers and terrorists responsible for the death of hundreds of Israelis over the past few decades. Most of the training and indoctrination takes place in the evening, due to the hot weather and for "security reasons." More than 500 Hamas members of Ezaddin al-Qassam are supervising the military training and religious education in the camps.
Hamas's religious education is aimed at teaching the children about Islam and its sharia laws. The children are being told that the whole of the land of Palestine (including Israel) is Muslim-owned land that can't be given away to non-Muslims. They are also being taught that making peace with the "infidels" is prohibited under the teachings of Islam.
At one of the camps, the children were taught how to "raid" an Israeli military base and kill and capture some IDF soldiers. The drill was attended by Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, who said he was very proud of the children's level of performance.
Another senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayah, told the child-soldiers that they were being trained for jihad against Israel.
"These camps are designed to prepare a generation that carries the Quran and rifle," al-Hayah explained. "The camps show that Palestinians support the resistance and the project of liberation of Palestine. The goal is to liberate Palestine and the Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem]."
This is bad news for the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, who continue to talk about their desire to establish a Palestinian state that would exist alongside Israel in peace and stability. These children will never accept the two-state solution that Abbas is talking about. Nor will they ever recognize Israel's right to exist in this part of the world.
While Hamas is training children to become the future jihadis of the Palestinians, Abbas and his Palestinian Authority are also poisoning the hearts and minds of their people by constantly inciting them against Israel. This incitement is taking place in the mosques, in the media and in the public rhetoric of PA leaders and spokesmen. So what Abbas and the PA are doing is no less serious than what Hamas is doing to the children of the Gaza Strip.
Neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority has prepared their people for the possibility of peace with Israel. On the contrary, the two parties have radicalized their people to a point where it has become impossible to talk about a two-state solution. The only ones who benefit from this indoctrination and child abuse are Islamist terror groups and those in the region and abroad, including Europe, who continue to seek the destruction of Israel.