JERUSALEM, Israel -- Some 5,000 Palestinian Arab teenagers in the Gaza Strip have learned how to shoot Kalashnikov rifles, fire rockets and hurl hand grenades at the behest of the Hamas education ministry, Britain's The Guardian reported.
The course, which began last September, is being offered to an estimated 37,000 teens aged 15 to 17.
Special camps held during school breaks and summer vacation supplement the course with training on explosives and firearms.
Mohammed Syam, general director of the Hamas education ministry, says the program is not about military training and only 1 percent of the course material focuses on weapons, but a video posted on YouTube seems to indicate otherwise.
The video, shot at a school near Gaza City, shows an attack on a mock watchtower flying an Israeli flag.
According to the report, al-Mezan, a Gaza-based human rights organization, had nothing positive to say about the course.
"It's unbelievable," Samir Zakout said. "Hamas has been cutting sports activities in schools for the past six years, saying there is no time in the curriculum, but now they find the time to have military training inside schools."
"They should not be doing this," Zakout continued. "It's building a military culture, familiarizing boys with resistance and creating the next generation of militants."
According to the report, the Hamas government may offer the course to girls in the fall. Hamas recently decided boys and girls should be in separate schools after age nine.