January 25, 2013 - 1:00am


Mohamed Abed Rabbo, a 16-year-old student, held his breath when he jumped and crossed through a flaming ring of iron at a high school graduation ceremony in Gaza city, marking the fulfillment of a one-week paramilitary training course.

The training course, organized by ministry of education run by Islamic Hamas movement and coordinated with ministry of interior, includes 35 centers in schools across the Gaza Strip.

Osama al-Muzeini, Hamas minister of higher education, told reporters that the major aim of the program "is to sweep the ( Israeli) occupation which occupies the lands of Palestine."

Hamas has been relying on its leaders and members to train children in mosques, summer camps and paramilitary training camps, with the aim of spreading Islamic culture among young generations in the Gaza Strip.

Ismail Haneya, head of Hamas government, attended the ceremony at the sports stadium and said that the training course "will bring victory and liberation... Once we liberate Jerusalem and al- Aqsa Mosque, the training course will end."

He called for inaugurating a special school for military and security studies, and called on the two ministries of education and interior to bear this in mind and develop strategic plans "to train the largest sector of schoolchildren in this specific age."

Wearing an olive-green marine uniform, Abed Rabbo participated in the show at al-Yarmook Stadium in downtown Gaza city, jumping from a height using a robe and simulating gunbattle.

"We trained on using guns, how to disassemble and rebuild rifles and pistols, and opening fire," said the teenager wearing a light beard.

The course has trained 10,000 schoolchildren aged between 15 and 18 years old. According to organizers of the training camp, the schoolchildren joined the camp willingly, without facing any kind of pressure by anyone.

"I have been interested in the resistance since I was a kid, and I always want to join the militant groups when I grow up," said Abed Rabbo. "I really want to become a soldier who fights for the sake of defending our Palestinian lands."

Organizers of the course revealed that the training also included how to walk as a soldier in a parade, and receiving educational lectures in security terminology and anti-spying subjects.

Izzat, another 15-year-old schoolboy, said he decided to join the training course "to receive moral and military training as well as security training on how to fight the conception of collaboration with enemy."

"I wasn't obliged by anyone to join the course. I just heard about it in the neighborhood and decided to join it," said Izzat. The boy's coach, Wa'el, added that "the course aims at developing physical and military abilities of the youths."

According to the coach, the kids now know more about security and military situation in the Gaza Strip, "which faces daily Israeli military and security aggression as well as intensive Israeli intelligence campaigns aimed at recruiting Palestinian collaborators with Israel."

"I believe that the project of training school children on paramilitary actions is a national duty to develop the youths' physical and military talents. We are in an ongoing conflict with the (Israeli) occupation, and we have to train a string of army able to confront the occupiers," said Wa'el.


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