Gaza schools are providing military training to teenage boys, teaching them how to fire rocket launchers, Kalashnikov assault rifles and other weapons, British newspaper The Guardian reported on Sunday.
Members of Hamas's Izzadin Kassam brigades assist in the training, according to Gaza's Ministry of Education website. They also teach schoolboys first aid, firefighting and "the values of discipline and responsibility," the Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian, the school curriculum is supplemented with voluntary camps during school breaks where the boys get further training in handling guns and explosives.
About 5,000 boys have been trained in this program since it started in September 2012. The curriculum is taught to 37,000 students aged 15-17 and parents are entitled to withdraw their sons from the course, but the newspaper reports that such a move is rare.
The Hamas education ministry website denies real weapons are being used in training, however, a video posted on YouTube shows a teenager at the Gamal Abdel Nasser school near Gaza City fire a rocket launcher at a target that includes a makeshift Israeli flag.
The Hamas general director of educational activities, Mohammed Syam, denied that there was any military training in the program and said only one percent of it was devoted to learning about weapons. However, a press release in his name said the program focuses on "military exercises, particularly on weapons training and skills training in the field of military confrontation."
The Hamas government is considering adapting the program for girls next year as well.