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memri
July 6, 2015 No.
6093

Intense Campaign By Hamas's Military Wing To Recruit Youths For Its Summer Camps

The 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, is preparing to launch its summer camps, which offer military training to teens and young people. Registration for the camps, called "The Liberation Pioneers," is carried out by Al-Qassam Brigades activists in mosques and central locations in Gaza strip cities.

The Al-Qassam Brigades are devoting all efforts to publicize the camps and encourage Gaza youths to join them. To this end, they have launched a widespread campaign to promote the camps on social networks, on Hamas and Al-Qassam Brigades websites, at special events in public places frequented by youths, and more.

This is the third session of the Liberation Pioneers camps; the first was held after the Gaza war in he summer of 2014, as part of Hamas's efforts to provide military training to the Gaza population, specifically the youth, and prepare them for the next round of fighting with Israel. It should be mentioned that the graduation ceremony for the first session of The Liberation Pioneers was a large-scale event attended by Hamas leadership.[1]

This report will review the Hamas campaign, both on the ground and on the internet:

'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades Summer Camps: Displays Of Courage And Live Fire Exercises

On June 12, 2015, Hamas' daily Filastin announced that registration for the Liberation Pioneers camps was beginning. It stated: "The martyr 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has opened registration for the Liberation Pioneers military camps throughout Gaza. The Brigades have called to register via special bulletin boards placed in mosques and public places around Gaza, and stated that registration would commence on Saturday, June 13."

"The camps are divided into four groups: age 15-17, age 18-25, age 25 and over, and one group for graduates of previous [camp] sessions. The Al-Qassam Brigades stressed that the camps aim to "create a nucleus for the future liberation project," and will include "sermons, displays of courage, training in military skills, live fire exercises, field training, civil defense classes and first aid."[2]

Leaflets circulated by the Al-Qassam Brigades announcing the opening of registration for the summer camps featured the camps' anthem:

"The Liberation Pioneers camps,

"On the path of resistance we march until liberation,

"Our eyes turned towards the captive Al-Aqsa [mosque],

"We have not forgotten our prisoners, the dawn of their freedom is near,

"The return to our country is a right we will not relinquish,

"We [come] from our people and return to it, our blood is sacrificed for young and old."


Al-Qassam Brigades leaflet announcing Liberation Pioneers summer camps (Source: Filastin.ps, June 12, 2015)

Military Training For Girls As Well

For the first time since Hamas launched the Liberation Pioneers camps, its leadership has promised that there would also be special camps for girls. Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri said: "This year will include military training for girls, in which they will carry weapons. This is not limited to men only."[3] However, Hamas has yet to publish details on these camps. The movement also operates a Facebook page titled "Liberation Pioneers Camps for Girls." At the top of the page is the promise "Wait for us," but as of now, the page is devoted to disseminating Hamas propaganda.[4]

Summer Camp Registration Points Throughout Gaza - Especially In Mosques

Camp registration points have sprung up throughout the Gaza Strip, and especially in mosques. They typically include a registration table with two or three activists, adorned with Hamas flags and signs, and giant posters of the movement's leaders and of Al-Qassam Brigades commanders who were killed. The activists are highly visible and appear in full military regalia with covered faces and combat gear. They also display their weapons or place them in a prominent location during the registration. Alongside the armed activists carrying out the registration itself, additional armed activists stand nearby, dressed in a variety of military uniforms.

Pictures in Gazan media and social networks show youths flocking to the registration points. Though Hamas officially declared the camps open to youths 15 and over, there is a visible presence of children younger than 15 at the registration points and the mosques where registration is taking place.


Registration application for the summer camps: "The 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Liberation Pioneers Camps. Name. Mobile phone number. Please present this receipt upon arrival at the training camps." (source: Facebook.com/alresalahNet


Armed Brigades members recruiting youths for the summer camps at a mosque in Gaza City's Shaja'iyya neighborhood (source: Facebook.com/estra7a.mo, June 27, 2015)


Children gather around armed activists at a registration point; the banner in the background commemorates military wing commanders who were killed in battle (source: Facebook.com/Jmahirirafah, June 29, 2015)


Registration at the Al-Sayyed 'Ali Al-Maghrebi mosque in Shaja'iyya (source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza, June 28, 2015)


Registration point in a Saja'iyya mosque (source: Facebook.com/7amas.ya.nour.3en, June 27, 2015)


Registration point in the Al-Rimal neighborhood (source: Facebook.com/984588611574773, July 2, 2015)


Registration point in Rafah (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza, June 30, 2015)


Registration point in Deir Al-Balah (source: Facebook.com/GazaNews2011, June 26, 2015)


Registering children for camps in Al-Rimal (source: Facebook.com/984588611574773, June 28, 2015)


Iz Al-Din Al-Qassam operatives place their weapons on the desk as teenagers line up to register for the summer camps (source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza, July 4, 2015.)

Criticism For Use Of Mosques

A website associated with Fatah condemned the use of mosques to recruit children, stating that "many Palestinians in Gaza criticized the transformation of mosques into registration points for Hamas camps, accusing the movement of exploiting places of worship to attract and recruit youths and of benefiting from the increased presence [of children] at Ramadan prayers. Since its establishment, Hamas has used mosques as a contact point with residents; it also imprisoned and tortured residents inside mosques during its coup in Gaza."[5]

Hamas Promotes Summer Camps On The Ground

Another element in Hamas's promotional campaign, which is meant to impress youths and entice them to register, is displays put on by the Al-Qassam Brigades in public places. An event that took place on the Gaza beach boardwalk featured loud rhythmic music and fiery speeches by Hamas leaders played on loudspeakers. The event also featured children and youths - likely graduates of previous camp sessions - demonstrating acrobatics, with older youths conducting a kind of military parade, dressed in uniforms and painted in camouflage colors. They also displayed martial arts, and a 4x4 truck carrying armed activists drove along the boardwalk while playing loud music and honking its horn.[6]


Martial arts display on Gaza boardwalk (source: Alray.ps, June 12, 2015)


Armed fighters during event on Gaza boardwalk (source: Alray.ps, June 12, 2015)

Armed Hamas activists also staged loud public displays to promote the summer camps elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.


Armed fighters aboard and alongside a pickup truck promoting summer camps in the southern Gaza Strip (source: Facebook.com/jmaherymedia1, June 30, 2015)


Youths participate in street rally promoting summer camps (source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza, June 15, 2015)


Poster for summer camps in Rafah (source: Facebook.com/jmahirirafah, June 29, 2015)

Online Campaign To Recruit Youths For Summer Camps

The Al-Qassam Brigades also turned to social media, especially Facebook, to publicize their summer camps.

Videos

Among the promotional materials disseminated on social media are special videos that Hamas's media bodies produced to recruit youths to the camps. The videos are accompanied by rhythmic music and high-quality graphics. One of them shows youths approaching a registration point and being greeted by Hamas activists.[7] Another, titled "Returning," shows a series of youths who declare, in turn, "I am from Ramla," "I am from Majdal [Ashkelon]," "I am from Jerusalem," etc. The last one declares "I am from Palestine - all of Palestine." The video is accompanied by dramatic music and ends with an image of youths training in the Hamas camps, implying that they are preparing to return to cities and territories inside Israel.[8]


Scene from "Returning" video: "I am from Jaffa" 

Facebook Page

Hamas's military wing operates a special Facebook page for its camps, which, as of this writing, has over 13,000 "likes." The page is updated daily with news regarding the location of registration points, photos from events, and specially-produced videos to generate excitement and interest.[9]


Liberation Pioneers camps Facebook page (Facebook.com/camps.gaza)  


The Liberation Pioneers Facebook page presents military training as a step towards liberation Jerusalem and Palestine (Facebook.com/camps.gaza, June 14, 2015)


'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades poster praising Liberation Pioneers camps, along with quote from the Koran (18:13): "Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance." (source: Qassam.ps)

At the same time, Hamas media activists and local institutions are working to market the camps on the Internet as well. Local mosques have uploaded pictures on their Facebook pagesfrom registration events they held, while Hamas supporters post selfies taken by youths with Al-Qassam Brigades members at registration points.


Hamas youth takes selfie picture with Al-Qassam Brigades member (source: Facebook.com/ANASNASRFAH, June 30, 2015)


Hamas supporters at registration point in Rafah (source: Facebook.com/ahmed.nser, June 28, 2015)


The camps are also promoted on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter accounts affiliated with Hamas and its supporters (source: Instagram.com/photos.from.gaza)


Stylized photo of a youth in a Liberation Pioneers camp (source: Sultanbaker.tumblr.com/122885586902) 

Endnotes:

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 1152, Hamas Prepares For Next Military Confrontation With Israel, April 13, 2015.

[2] Felesteen.ps, June 12, 2015.

[3] Alresalah.ps, May 23, 2015.

[4] Facebook.com/pages/%D9%85%D8%AE%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D9%84%D9%84%D9%81%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA/1494391404179686?fref=ts

[5] Karamapress.com, June 30, 2015.

[6] Youtube.com/CHI20C9mCk4, June 12, 2015.

[7] Youtube.com/yyMaFqusYq8, June 23, 2015.

[8] Youtube.com/LeJ1PcVkQd8, June 26, 2015.

[9] Facebook.com/camps.gaza