Inside Hamas Summer Camp

A boys’ camp in the Palestinian territories.

A kinder, more moderate Hamas? That’s the image Gaza’s ruling militant group is hoping to sell, in any case. Having scaled back the rocket attacks on Southern Israel that prompted Israel to strike back last December and invade Gaza in a conflict that lasted three weeks, Hamas has refocused on public relations. “Armed resistance is still important and legitimate,” Hamas leader Ayman Taha told the New York Times in July. “But we have a new emphasis on cultural resistance.”

The new emphasis includes state support for films, television, art shows, and poetic works that portray Gaza residents struggling under Israeli policies. It also includes countless government-run summer camps, which Israel has criticized as ideological training grounds where kids learn how to use weapons. Photos from inside these camps are rare, but Demotix photojournalist Eman Mohammed was cleared to shoot a “scout” camp for younger boys, and eventually got permission to spend a few hours inside the camp for older boys. The images above feature scenes from both camps.

“Hamas scout summer camps” for children and youths in the Gaza Strip start in July every year. The camps are criticised by Israel which accuses Hamas of training children in the use of weaponry and to promote its Islamist ideology.