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Hamas's approach to jihad: Start 'em young

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Mohammed Ramadan, the young man who dons the Nahool costume and who also played Farfur before that character's televised martyrdom, says he's been "shocked" by international allegations that his characters teach children to hate.

"Look, Israeli aggression against us is a fact, they kicked these children's grandparents and parents from their homes, and we're not allowed to talk about this?" he asks. "They need to know."

Nevertheless, Mr. Ramadan says that he won't cross certain "red lines." "A red line would be telling children to go kill Israelis. But talking about our right to our land, to one day return? That's not a red line. That's what they need to know."

"Nahool exists for two things," says Mr. Mohsen. "Teaching basic stuff like respect for adults, looking twice before crossing the road, and respecting the environment. But No. 2, we want to make sure they remember that we're exiles from our own land, land they have to be committed to regaining."

What effect Nahool's antics have on young minds is hard to gauge.

Ahmed, a 9-year-old who says he loves recently retired soccer star Zinedine Zidane, allows that he sometimes finds the bumbling bee amusing, but doesn't hesitate to name his favorite character on Palestinian TV – Captain Majid, whose eponymous show chronicles the adventures of a soccer-obsessed boy and his World Cup dreams.

Sun, surf, and paramilitary training

As part of its long-term recruitment policy, in addition to its children's show on Al Aqsa, Hamas is sending tens of thousands of poor Gazan children to camp this summer where they can enjoy sun, surf, and paramilitary training.

"Life is so tough here we say our children are born men, but they're still just kids,'' says Mohammed, who runs the Abu Musab Hamas camp in central Gaza and asked that his full name not be used. As he speaks, rows of painfully polite 10-year-olds in green Hamas hats file off the beach at the end of the day. "They need entertainment and we give it to them, with a single goal: To get their attention so they develop good Islamic manners, bond their egos to the group, and integrate them into the right way of life."

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