GAZA CITY — Hamas has completed a massive military training course of teenagers, some as young as 15.
Hamas said it conducted a military training course for 17,000 youngsters in the Gaza Strip. The Islamic movement, which despite a formal transfer to the Palestinian Authority continues to control the Gaza Strip, said the cadets, ages 15 to 21, were instructed in firearms, combat skills and infiltration of neighboring Israel.
“The number of cadets exceeded expectations,” Hamas said.
In a statement on Jan. 27, Hamas said the training course, titled “Pioneers of Resistance,” was conducted at the Izzedin Kassem military training compound near Gaza City. The cadets underwent a graduation ceremony at the complex attended by former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
The training course came amid Hamas’ efforts to recover from the 50-day war with Israel in mid-2014. Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies were said to have intensified recruitment and training in an effort to prepare for another war with the Jewish state.
On Jan. 26, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were said to have launched at least 10 rockets from the Gaza Strip into the Mediterranean Sea. The launches were said to mark tests of new medium- and long-range rockets.
Hamas released photographs of the training course, which showed Palestinian teenagers firing assault rifles at targets that contained the faces of Israeli leaders. The youngsters, who graduated on Jan. 29, were also seen in mock tunnel attacks from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
Officials said Izzedin Kassam recruited for the training course in cities around the Gaza Strip. They said the return of the PA to the Gaza Strip prevented the use of government funds to pay for the camp.
“Today, these youths are soldiers in the Gaza Strip,” Hamas said on Jan. 29. “Tomorrow they will liberate the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.”