Gaza's children have recently begun attending summer camp, and this year there is as yet no sign of the military training, including instruction on how to fire Qassam rockets, generally offered to children by Hamas every summer.
Thousands of children will attend around 250 different camps this summer, most of which are owned by Hamas. The UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) also provides dozens of camps, as does Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Thousands of children attend hundreds of camps (Photo: AFP)
According to some reports, Hamas is planning to ask UNRWA to separate girls and boys this year.
Twelve-year-old Halil Abu-Nada, of Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, attends a camp called 'The breaking of the siege on the Strip – victory in Gaza brings honor to Jerusalem'. It is only one of the six camps run by Hamas in the neighborhood, and operates between 8 am-12 pm.
Supervising the hundreds of students attending the camp are mainly employees of the neighborhood's 'Light of Mohammad' Mosque. Halil says he is studying the Muslim religion, and mainly prayer. "Our camp is called 'Breaking the siege' because it is our goal to live free without a siege, like the rest of the world," he says.
Abu Ibrahim al-Shehade, the camp's coordinator, says the children have been noticeably affected by the IDF offensive in Gaza. "That's why we have reinforced the counseling team and every camp has a psychologist or a guidance counselor," he said.
Shehade adds that in addition to religious training the kids also receive a healthy dose of sports, art, and cartoons, mentioning Tom and Jerry specifically.
He says reports of extremism in the summer camps were unfounded. "We teach the children tolerance and good will," Shehade explains. "We teach them commitment and discipline and about the values of their religion. The ones teaching their children that Arabs are rats and flies are the Israelis, and they shouldn't be preaching ethics to us about this matter."