Hamas is recruiting civilians into its ranks and training for a future confrontation with Israel. The ramifications are disastrous. 

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, is planning to establish what they call a “popular army,” the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terror Information Center (ITIC) reports.

According to recent Hamas-affliliated media reports, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades is recruiting as many civilian volunteers as possible, regardless of age, who are given basic military training with a focus on how to fire various types of weapons. The objective is to train them to act as an auxiliary force for Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives in a future confrontation with Israel.

Qudspress reports that Hamas has posted recruitment notices in mosques and is using these religious facilities to request that all Gazan civilians train as part of a “popular army” and register with Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades representatives.

Hamas has established training camps throughout the Gaza Strip and will hold training sessions once a week. The training is given in accordance with age groups: youth 14-20 years of age, older volunteers and, finally, mature and elderly adults.

Maintaining Hamas Popularity on Gaza Streets

PalTimes quotes Abu Mujahad, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ training commander, as saying that civilian volunteers will be trained in the use of all types of weapons, from light arms to hand grenades. He claimed that thousands of young Gazans had already signed up in the mosques for training;1,800 young men in the Jabaliya refugee camp have already joined, reports indicate.

Musa Abu Marzouq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, has denied the socalled “rumors” that Hamas was planning to establish a “popular army” on his Facebook page. However, he added that “Hamas is maneuvering between the approach that says we are part of this society and such a decision needs a national consensus” and “the fact that says we [live] in the society of resistance, we need a culture, concept and training for resistance to guard our people and protect our homeland…”

In the ITIC’s assessment, this move by Hamas is being done to maintain the solidarity expressed on Gaza streets towards the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the wake of Operation Protective Edge. The ITIC states that it is unclear how successful the venture has been so far, but intelligence collected on the ground clearly points to the existence of such an undertaking by Hamas.

Like Human Shields

The ITIC further points out that the incorporation of youth into the Hamas terror apparatus makes the distinction between civilians and combatants during warfare more difficult and could result in a rise in civilian casualties in a future conflict.

An ITIC examination of the names of Gazan casualties of Operation Protective Edge indicates the inclusion of 15-17-year-olds in the ranks of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, although the extent of their inclusion is unclear.

Terror Camps for Kids

This practice of pressing youth into the service of terrorism resembles Hamas’s practice of using human shields during warfare, which constitutes a war crime.

Hamas has a long history of using children in the service of terrorism. The terror group holds annual summer camps in which thousands of children are trained to use arms and are indoctrinated in the organization’s militant ideology of hate.

Osama al-Muzeini, Hamas minister of education, held a press conference earlier this year at a high school in Gaza, where he explained that the “national project’s” objective was to raise a generation of Palestinian youths capable of “liberating and defending their country.” He added that the program would train the students in combat skills and make them familiar with weapons so that they would be able to “‘resist the occupation.” He condemned those who criticized the camps’ education of violence and terrorism, saying that “the program instills good social values.”

Fathi Hamad, Hamas minister of the interior, said at the press conference that the students participating in the camps will have “the main role in liberating Al-Aqsa Mosque from the pollution of the occupation.” It was worth their while to train and prepare to participate in “the liberation of Ashdod, Yavne, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramla and all the villages in Palestine,” he declared.

Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel
(With files from ITIC)