Every summer Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) conduct summer camps in the Gaza Strip for youngsters, mostly for high school students. Thousands of campers enjoy summer activities, which are combined with radical ideologies and paramilitary training. Hamas is the most prominent organization conducting summer camps (as a continuation of the military training in the high schools during the school year). The PIJ also conducts summer camps, which ended this year on July 4. Hamas summer camps are supposed to begin on July 20, 2019, and registration is in progress.
Pictures from the final-day ceremony in the PIJ summer camps, including a display of military skills (Jerusalem Brigades website, the PIJ website and Facebook pages affiliated with the organization, July 4, 5 and 6, 2019).
- In the past UNRWA organized and funded some of the summer activities for the children in the Gaza Strip. However, in recent years UNRWA suspended its activities because of financial problems. The vacuum was filled by Hamas and the PIJ, which increased their summer camp activities accordingly. In the past Hamas summer camps were organized by the ministries of education and the interior. However, in recent years, with the formal addition of military training to the high school curriculum (“al-Futuwwa”), organizing the summer camps was turned over to the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ (to continue al-Futuwwa training). Apparently the transition had a direct influence on the summer camps’ programs and more emphasis is currently placed on indoctrination and paramilitary training.
- Hamas and the PIJ consider the activities held during the summer camps as very important. In most cases the camps are named for shaheeds or milestone events in the history of the terrorist organizations or of Palestine. At the camps the youths receive paramilitary training, some of which is held in military posts and provided by terrorist organization operatives. Radical ideological indoctrination includes the so-called “right of return,” the shahada (the willingness to die as a martyr for the sake of Allah and become a shaheed), the so-called “liberation of Palestine” by means of the “resistance” (i.e., the destruction of the State of Israel through terrorism), and inculcating the tenets of radical Islam. Therefore, the camps are regarded as workshops for producing the next generations of operatives, who in the future will be integrated into the military and political networks of Hamas and the PIJ in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas Summer Camps, 2019
- Hamas’ summer camps are expected to open on July 20, 2019. The camps, called Pioneers of Liberation, are supervised by Hamas’ military wing, and their theme is “Going to Jerusalem.” On July 11, 2019, Hamas military wing announced registration for the summer camps would begin on July 13, 2019. Registration is possible at all Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades posts and the nearby mosques. According to the announcement, registration is open to junior high, high school and university students (Palinfo, July 10, 2019).
Hamas military wing announces registration for its Pioneers of Liberation summer camps, 2019 (Pioneers of Liberation Facebook page, July 10, 2019). At the upper right are the logos of Hamas and its summer camps. In the upper left corner the Arabic reads, “Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance” (Sura 18, al-Kahf, verse 13). Below that the Arabic reads, “Because it is the forward post (i.e., Palestine), which Allah blessed, it and the lands around it, and because al-Aqsa mosque struggles under the yoke of the occupation, and because the youth are the central pillar of the nation and the coming victorious generation– The Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades announces the beginning of registration.” At the bottom of the page the Arabic reads, “Our camps are workshops for [brave] men… Register without delay.”
- Before registration began videos and promos were broadcast on Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV and on the social networks, calling on Gazan youths to join the camps. The videos indicate the content of the camps. The following are examples of promos broadcast by al-Aqsa TV:
- On July 11, 2019, Hamas’ military wing issued a video following its announcement of the beginning of registration, featuring scenes from camps held in previous years. According to the video, the Pioneers of Liberation camps will be conducted by the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades to promote the development of young Palestinians and prepare the “generation of liberation.” The video stressed that Hamas’ military wing would fully supervise the camps, which would be held at dozens of their training facilities throughout the Gaza Strip. Among the objectives of the camps are to imbue young Palestinians with values such as strengthening the sense of belonging to the homeland and strengthening the principle of resistance to the [Israeli] “occupation.” The campers will engage in physical training and scouting skills, first aid and civil defense, and will learn to shoot light arms. They will also attend lectures on security and religious topics (Pioneers of Liberation Facebook page, July 11, 2019).
Activities at Pioneers of Liberation summer camps from a video announcing registration. The pictures show weapons training. According to Hamas’ military wing, the camps are held at its training facilities throughout the Gaza Strip (Pioneers of Liberation Facebook page, July 11, 2019).
A video advertising Hamas’ summer camps stresses that the movement invested great efforts of all its departments and means to provide activities at the camps (Pioneers of Liberation Facebook page, July 11, 2019).
- On July 9, 2019, Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV broadcast a video showing children playing on a Gaza Strip beach, including a youngster flying a kite. As they play words flash across the sky, including “[brave] men,” “strength,” “pioneers,” “prisoners,” etc. Afterwards the children run to a military operative and together they engage in training, while wearing Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades Pioneers of Liberation summer camp shirts. The final chyron reads “the army of Jerusalem, the generation that was raised under the wings of [the Izz al-Din] al-Qassam [Brigades].”
Pictures from a video advertising the Pioneers of Liberation summer camps broadcast on al-Aqsa TV (July 10, 2019).
- On July 7, 2019, a video was broadcast which showed a child sitting on the ruins of a house and “remembering” Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The child then joins the military activities of a summer camp, and the chyron reads, “Our pain creates the generation of liberators” (al-Aqsa, July 5, 2019).
- Another video broadcast by the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades showed pictures of activities held in its summer camps in past years, with an emphasis on military activities. The video ended with “Get ready” for the Pioneers of Liberation summer camps, 2019″ (Filastin al-A’an, July 3, 2019).
Pictures of summer camps held during past summers, from a video issued by Hamas’ military wing called “Get ready” for the Pioneers of Liberation summer camps, 2019 (Pioneers of Liberation summer camps Facebook page, July 3, 2019).
Pictures from a promo for the Pioneers of Liberation summer camps (al-Aqsa TV, July 10, 2019).
Responsibility for the summer camps transferred to Hamas’ military wing
- On January 29, 2015, the al-Monitor website described the process of transferring responsibility for the summer camps from Hamas’ ministries of the interior and education in the Gaza Strip to its military wing. According to al-Monitor, in January 2015, less than a year after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas’ military wing organized the Pioneers of Liberation military camps for young Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 21. About 17,000 students registered. The Pioneers of Liberation camps were organized as an extension of the al-Futuwwa program, which was introduced into the school curriculum in 2012, after it was authorized by the Hamas-controlled ministry of education. Initially the Pioneers of Liberation camps were held during the summer vacations and semester breaks in collaboration with the ministries of education and the interior, but since 2015 they have been held and supervised exclusively by Hamas’ military wing.
- With the transfer of responsibility to Hamas’ military wing, the method of registration was also changed and today the registrars are masked Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades operatives (al-monitor, January 29, 2015). Zakaria al-Hur, general director of activities in the ministry of education in the Gaza Strip, said responsibility was transferred to the military wing because the Palestinian government did to provide them financial assurances and did not issue the necessary administrative orders. He said that in light of the financial hardships, the military wing had taken upon itself to be exclusively responsible for the mission. Senior Hamas figure Isma’il Radwan said that Hamas had the right to foster the younger generation, raise and reeducate it (al-Monitor, January 29, 2015).
PIJ Summer Camps, 2019
This year the Jerusalem Brigades, the PIJ’s military-terrorist wing, held its summer camps along the Gazan coastline. The Jerusalem Brigades’ recruitment unit was put in charge of organizing the camps. The summer camps, named al-Majid 2 (“glory”), began on June 29, 2019, with the theme “The plot will surely fail” [a reference to the “deal of the century”] (Wa’i wa-nur Facebook page, June 29, 2019). According to Abu Abdallah, senior figure in the Jerusalem Brigades’ recruitment unit, it is the second time the camps were held with the same formula. He claimed that this year 3,000 Gazans between the age of 15 and 25 participated in the camps. He said they had lessons in religion, lessons to “increase their security awareness,” physical training and developing skills of self defense (al-Istiqlal, June 3, 2019).
Opening day at the PIJ’s al-Magid 2 summer camps
(Wa’i wa-nur Facebook page, June 29, 2019).
Right: Senior PIJ figure and Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March chairman Khaled al-Batash gives a speech on the opening day of the summer camps (Wa’i wa-nur Facebook page, June 29, 2019). Left: Khaled al-Batash interviewed about the summer camps. To the left are campers on the Gaza Strip coast (Paltoday channel, June 29, 2019).
- On July 4, 2019, the PIJ summer camps held their closing ceremony. It was organized by the recruitment unit and held at the return camp in the eastern part of Gaza City. The ceremony ended with the presentation of awards to the families of Palestinians killed during the round of escalation in May 2019 (Jerusalem Brigades website, July 4, 2019). Senior PIJ figures and Hamas gave belligerent speeches against Israel, promoting the “resistance.”
- Khaled al-Batash, a member of the PIJ’s political bureau, gave a speech in the name of the movement, saying that holding the ceremony near the security fence sent the message to Israel (“the Zionist enemy”). His message was that the younger generation would be responsible for causing the failure of any attempt to destroy the Palestinian cause, and had the responsibility of keeping the “flame of jihad” burning until the “liberation of Palestine.”
- Abu Muhammad, responsible for the recruitment unit, said the camps provided educational and military activities to train the coming generations to fight the [Israeli] “occupation.” He said he was standing before a generation that yearned for shahada (death as a martyr for the sake of Allah) and was determined to put an end to the Israeli entity. On the sidelines of the ceremony, Abu Muhammad said the summer camps had provided courses in military skills and information technologies (al-Andalou News, July 4, 2019).
- Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau and permanent participant in the return marches, also gave a speech. He said the summer camps were a clear “Palestinian resistance” answer to all those who were in favor of normalization [of relations with Israel] and a clear response to the threats of the Israeli prime minister against the “resistance” in the Gaza Strip (Paltoday, July 4, 2019).
Campers display their military skills at the final-day ceremony of summer camp
From the Jerusalem Brigades website, July 4, 2019; and the PIJ’s website, July 6, 2019.
From the BarqGaza3 Facebook page, July 5, 2019; and the “Handala” Palestine Facebook page, July 4, 2019).
 Al-Futuwwa ("youth/heroism") is a paramilitary training program for high school students in the Gaza Strip. Responsible for it are officers in Hamas' national security forces who belong to the ministry of the interior in the Gaza Strip and operatives from the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing. The students receive theoretical and practical training in using weapons and in activities on the ground, and are integrated into the military wing's ongoing security activities. For further information, see the November 29, 2018 bulletin, "Hamas continues military training for students in government high schools in the Gaza Strip to prepare them to join its ranks." ↑
 According to Paltoday and al-Andalou News reports, his name is Tawfiq Kanita. ↑