JERUSALEM, Israel – When summer camp for kids comes to mind you might think of swimming, boating and hiking. Summer camp in the Gaza Strip is more like a military boot camp.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad – both designated terrorist groups – held camps this summer for the youth of Gaza. In videos published by MEMRI – the Middle East Media Research Institute – the groups boasted that 70,000 youth from all age groups attended the camps. Islamic Jihad called their camp the “Sword of Jerusalem,” after the name of the recent war with Israel in May.
One teenage boy explained why they came to the camp. “We did not come here to enjoy ourselves, or to play, or anything like that. We came with our souls, our blood, our martyrs, and our wounded to sacrifice ourselves for Palestine and for our people.”
Military trainers and commanders from the Al-Quds military Brigade run the camp. Spokesman Ahmad Al-Rai explained the reason for their camp: “So that in the next phase, Allah willing, these boys will be able to confront the plundering enemy and disfigure its face in the next war.”
Before the camps, a promotional video urged students from primary school, high school and college to participate. In the camp, they practice shooting with AK-47’s, anti-tank weapons and video simulations.
Abu Omas, an Islamic Jihad commander in charge of the training said, “We say to the enemy: ‘These children picked up these weapons, and we trained them how to use them, as well as how to take security measures, so that they follow in the footsteps of their fathers and take up arms, Allah willing.’”
Hamas runs a camp called the “Pioneers of Liberation,” a reference to liberating Jerusalem and destroying the Jewish state. One young boy said why he came: “I chose to spend my vacation in the ‘Pioneers of Liberation’ summer camp in order to continue the path of my father, the martyred commander Walid Shamaleh Abu Bilal, and in order to strengthen our determination and liberate Jerusalem, Allah willing.”
In May, Hamas and other Islamic groups fought an 11-day war with Israel. They say they’re preparing the next generation for the next war.
These young men and boys vow to return to Israel and learn anti-Semitism at an early age.
“We asked Hitler why he left some of you alive. He did so in order to show us how wicked you are,” one boy said. “We will come to you from under the ground and hammer fear into your hearts, and above the ground, we will tear your bodies apart with our rockets. Scram into the shelters, you mice, you sons of a Jewish woman!”
Yael Yehoshua, Israel’s MEMRI Director, told CBN News they have been monitoring these summer camps for ten years.
“The videos and images from those camps and reflect the way that Hamas is operating and deepening its control,” said Yehoshua. “In ten or fifteen years from now, the kids will be adults and parents, maybe even officials in Gaza and decision-makers, so we see that the extremism in Gaza will be even worse.”
Yehoshua said that Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force of arms thirteen years ago, “So since birth, this generation has been raised only on the values of this terrorist movement … This is of course only deepening the crisis forcing any chance for a dignified, peaceful life for the kids and for all the residents of Gaza.” She feels the international community should speak up about these camps.
While these kids are in camp, Hamas’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, is visiting nations like Mauritania pledging to continue the war against Israel.
“Let me tell you, my brothers and sisters: the sword of Jerusalem will not be sheathed until the blessed al-Aqsa mosque is liberated,” he said at a reception in his honor during his visit.
Given these summer camps, it seems the battle for Jerusalem is being passed onto to the next generation.