Hamas stops Gaza kids leaving for Kibbutz Movement-sponsored vacation

Dozens of Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip who were due to enter Israel for a two-week vacation were prevented from leaving the territory by Hamas officials on Wednesday, Israel said. Most of the children were orphaned as a result of the IDF bombing during Operation Cast Lead, The Kibbutz Movement had sponsored the vacation for 47 children, who are between the ages of four and 13. The children were to be accompanied by five adults from the Strip as well as Arabic-speaking youth movement members from Israel, and were to be hosted in Kafr Kasem, Haifa and Kibbutz Sasa. "Hamas prevented them from leaving today," said Peter Lerner, an Israeli defense official. "Hamas was responsible for letting them get out…The press was waiting at the Erez crossing for them to come. The Kibbutz Movement was waiting for them to come." Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev said he had not previously heard about the incident Wednesday, but told The Jerusalem Post that "Hamas, through its actions, continually demonstrates that the last thing on its mind is the well-being of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip."