Monday, November 29, 1999

UN, Hamas compete over summer camps for Gaza children

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Gaza, June 18 (IANS) The UN and the Hamas group are up in arms against each other in organising summer camps for children in the Gaza strip and over 600 camps with more than 5,000 children have already been set up.The UN Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), which inaugurated this week summer camps in the Gaza beachside, has said mentors in the camps are not teaching school children any politics but are only entertaining them.The UNRWA summer camps were inaugurated a day before Gaza-ruling Hamas movement started its own camps.Hamas, in reference to the UNRWA camps, has said that its camps 'are religious and cultural and not summer camps of debauchery'. Hamas has established 600 summer camps all over the Gaza Strip.The UN agency has, however, said its camps will help the children overcome the trauma.'Here, it's not allowed to think or talk about politics, we differ from other summer camps run by other organisations,' Mohamed Atallah, a teacher and mentor in a UN summer camp, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.'We are not linked to any political group, but we try our best to help the children to get out of the horrible situation they had passed over the past several years,' he said.Hamas has said over 5,000 children have joined 30 summer camps in Gaza City only.As soon as school children finish their exams, all summer camps are expected to be full of participants, an organiser said.'Each summer camp carries the name of a Hamas militant killed by the occupation, or the name of a village destroyed in Palestine in 1948 and the names of the prisoners,' Ihab al-Eisawai, Hamas summer camp media officer was quoted as saying.'We are expecting 100,000 children in the summer camps,' he said.'UN summer camps have affected our summer activities this year, because they attract the children by offering them entertaining games. Our camps are different; we carry out cultural, media, arts and technology activities, in addition to focusing on teaching them about the real Islam,' al-Eisawi said.Meanwhile, hundreds of schoolchildren were having a good time on the white-sand beach at a UN-run camp.A huge tent takes up an area of around one acre in the beach and is divided into six sections. In each section, there are 250 children, wearing ordinary clothes and caps with the words 'Summer Games 2010'.There are two swimming pools for children. The children can also practise all kinds of activities, including drawing, games like volleyball and football.'The children are allowed to practise freely all kinds of entertainment that never contradicts with culture, traditions or religion. But children express what they feel inside by drawing things related to the current situation,' Atallah said, adding 'they draw tanks and warplanes shelling schools and homes'.Yasmin Dib, an 11-year-old girl, said: 'We come here to be happy. I really feel so happy when I come to this summer camp, I feel safe and secure and I can have a good time with my classmates, where we play, laugh and swim together.'

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