Children gather in Gaza
Qarmout: No charge
Al-Oukul: Fun and remembering prisoners
Hamas opened its second session of summer camp in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, with around 70,000 kids attending 500 different camps, divided by age groups.
The organization has already announced that there would be no weapons training in the camps, and that a special council has been appointed to supervise them. Hundreds of counselors and managers were also trained to lead the children over the past few weeks.
In each city or area, Hamas representatives attended the camps' opening ceremonies. In Jabalya refugee camp, they were welcomed by hundreds of children carrying signs that said: "Freedom for our prisoners" and "Al-Aqsa Mosque".
In Rafah, the children protested a decision by the French government to halt the broadcast of Hamas's television network in the country. Hundreds also gathered before facilities belonging to Gaza's power plant to protest electrical power outages.
Kids march in Gaza
Abu-Islam Qarmout, one of those responsible for Hamas's summer camps in northern Gaza, is the brother of Amer Qarmout, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees who was killed by Israel in 2008. Qarmout said the camps' goals are educational, social, and physical.
Many of the camps are held in schools, and the children are taken to the beach, the zoo, and horse ranches. Qarmout said the camps want to help raise a generation that is aware of the Palestinian issue, the reasons for the Israeli siege, and the occupation.
"However, we also have another main goal and that is to try and restore the children's spirit, which has been badly hurt these past few years," he said. "We want the children to go wild and have fun."
When asked how much money the children's parents were paying for the camps, Qarmout was appalled. "What money? What price are we talking about? How can you charge a people under siege money? The children and their parents pay nothing," he said. "We bring them here to have fun and receive an education about proper values."
Qarmout also rejected all notions that the camps were conveying a violent message, calling it Zionist propaganda. "There is no extremist content and no education towards violence," he said. "That is a lie. All the children receive are social and moral messages."
Abd al-Wahal al-Oukul, a resident of Beit Lahiya, is attending one of the camps this year. He said he was in it to have fun. "We come here to remember the al-Aqsa mosque and the prisoners. We will also enjoy ourselves and have fun," he said.