The New York Times followed a graduation ceremony at Hamas' training camp in Gaza, where the next generation of fighters is being trained ahead of a possible future battle with Israel.
Some 13,000 high school students in the Gaza Strip joined a six-day program, Futuwwa, run by the movement controlling Gaza since 2007, in order to undergo intensive training carried out by members of Hamas' military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
During the training, the young fighters were taught how to fire AK-47 rifles, crawl under barbed wire and jump over burning tires, all while their course commanders closely monitor every student and looked for any mistake.
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On top of former settlement
"We target the students to create future soldiers and leaders who can defend their cause and appreciate the value of resistance," said course commander Abu Mahmoud, who supervised 200 students at the training base that was constructed over the ruins of former Israeli settlement of Atzmona, which was evacuated as part of the disengagement from Gaza in 2005.
The high school students do not conceal their excitement at the thought of possibly fighting those they dub "the Zionist enemy". Muhamad Ghanem, only 15-years-old, is already geared up to take weapons into his hands. "By the time I finish training, I will know how to overcome the Israeli army. Even if they don't invade Gaza again, I will be ready to reach the border and fight them," he said.
Osama Shehada, also 15, said that he is interested in learning how to construct bombs to use against Israeli targets. According to him, he joined the training program to professionalize and to understand how Israel uses Palestinian collaborators. "The Israeli occupation doesn’t stop recruiting spies. For us, the spies are more dangerous than the (IAF) warplane," said Shehada.
The course, which ended Tuesday, was entirely funded by Hamas' Education Ministry. The graduation ceremony was attended by the movement's Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, who spoke at the event and encouraged to continue the resistance. "Your generation will achieve the liberation and independence (of Palestine)," said Haniyeh, who suggested that girls could also take part in the program in the future.
In November, the New York Times reported that Hamas has stopped using the Palestinian Authority's curriculum and penetrated its own ideology into its education system. Among other details, the Oslo Accords are not mentioned in their books, Palestine spans from Jordan to the Mediterranean, and there's a special chapter regarding Operation Pillar of Defense , which reads: "An attempted attack against the Israeli Knesset brought the Zionists to plead for a ceasefire."