The scheme has been criticised by Palestinian human rights groups, who point out that Hamas has previously banned sport from the school curriculum on the grounds that there is not enough time for it.
Hamas authorities introduced the ‘Futuwwa’, or youth programme into the state curriculum last September for 37,000 Palestinian boys aged between 15 and 17, conceiving it as a scheme intended to initiate a new generation of Palestinian men in the struggle against Israel.
Izzadine Mohamed, 17, was among the students who attended the weekly school classes, which covered first aid, basic fire fighting skills and how to fire a Kalashnikov rifle. He was also one of 5,000 boys across Gaza who also signed up for an optional two-week camp held at a Hamas military base.
“I was excited to learn the right way to use a weapon,” said Mr Mohamed. “It’s important because of the occupation. I feel stronger and more confident with the knowledge, which I could use against the occupier.”