Hamas stages dozens of military-style summer camps for young Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Children attending the camps take part in a range of activities including obstacle courses and sports events – as well as simulated kidnappings and dismantling real guns while blindfolded.

hamas summer camps blindfold
Blindfolded Palestinian children dismantle weapons at Fajer Al-Entesar (dawn of victory) summer camp, organised by the Hamas movement, in Gaza CityReuters

About 100,000 young Palestinians attend summer camps every year, and there is a range of options available. The military wings of various organisations compete for the hearts and minds of young Gazans; parents can choose to send their kids to camps run by Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, to name just two.

Hamas believes children must be prepared for Israeli aggression. Hamza Ahmad, a summer camp official, told Al-Monitor: "There are ongoing incursions into the Gaza Strip from the Israeli occupation and all classes of the Palestinian people must learn the basics of dealing with firearms for self-defence. This young generation bears major responsibilities in the future and is supposed to be mentally and physically prepared for any military confrontation."

Israel has blamed Hamas for the apparent abduction of three Jewish teens, without providing proof. Israel has arrested more than 200 Palestinians since the teens disappeared. Most of those arrested are Hamas activists.

Two Palestinian youths climb across bars over fire at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza City
Two Palestinian youths climb across bars over fire at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza CityReuters
A young Palestinian jumps into a pool as others walk over a rope bridge at a summer camp organised by the Hamas movement in Gaza City
A young Palestinian jumps into a pool as others walk over a rope bridge at a summer camp organised by the Hamas movement in Gaza CityReuters
A Palestinian youth learns how to operate a rifle at a Hamas summer camp in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip
A Palestinian youth learns how to operate a rifle at a Hamas summer camp in Rafah, southern Gaza StripAFP
Palestinian youths abseil down a tower at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza City
Palestinian youths abseil down a tower at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza CityReuters
A young Palestinian poses for a photograph after participating in a military-style graduation ceremony at Fajer Al-Entesar (dawn of victory) summer camp. The writing on the wall is a verse from the Koran that reads:
A young Palestinian poses for a photograph after participating in a military-style graduation ceremony at Fajer Al-Entesar (dawn of victory) summer camp. The writing on the wall is a verse from the Koran that reads: "And all hold firmly to the rope of Allah together and do not become divided"Reuters
Young Palestinians hold fake machine guns during their graduation ceremony at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza City
Young Palestinians hold fake machine guns during their graduation ceremony at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza CityReuters
A young Palestinian crawls under barbed wire, past flames, at Fajer Al-Entesar (dawn of victory) summer camp, organised by the Hamas movement, in Gaza City
A young Palestinian crawls under barbed wire, past flames, at Fajer Al-Entesar (dawn of victory) summer camp, organised by the Hamas movement, in Gaza CityReuters
A young Palestinian crawls under an obstacle at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza City
A young Palestinian crawls under an obstacle at a Hamas summer camp in Gaza CityReuters
A young Palestinian takes part in a military-style exercise during a summer camp organised by Hamas in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
A young Palestinian takes part in a military-style exercise during a summer camp organised by Hamas in Rafah in the southern Gaza StripReuters