The armed wing of Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas has put its weapons on public display, in a first open event drawing hundreds of Palestinians including children brandishing rocket launchers for selfies.
Dressed in black balaclavas and tactical camouflage suits, members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades mingled with young men and women at the exhibition in Gaza City’s Unknown Soldier’s Square.
“Resistance is an image and a memory. Take souvenir photos with many of Al-Qassam’s weapons,” the group said in an invitation on social media and posters in mosques.
The event was the first at which Hamas has allowed the public to take photos of weapons.
It follows the latest surge in worsening Israeli-Palestinian violence, which cost 16 Palestinian and four Israeli lives in the occupied West Bank over six days in late June.
In May, militant groups in Gaza and Israel traded cross-border fire for five days, killing 34 Palestinians, among them six commanders of the Islamic Jihad, fighters from other Palestinian armed groups and civilians including children. One Israeli woman died.
Among the Hamas weapons on display in Gaza City on Friday were a range of locally manufactured missiles, “Shihab” drones, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Russian-made “Kornet” missiles.
Exhibitions are also scheduled to take place on Saturday in the north and centre of the Gaza Strip, where people are normally forbidden to approach and photograph military sites.
At the entrance to the Gaza City exhibition a banner welcomed visitors, some of whom had come with their families and children, an AFP correspondent said.
Dozens of uniformed Al-Qassam Brigades members were on hand.
- ‘Proud of the resistance’ –
A young boy in fatigues and wearing a green Brigades headband smiled for the cameras as a man propped a rocket launcher on his shoulder.
Another held the controls of an anti-aircraft gun as young men posed in front of a display of rockets on stands.
“I came with my family to take photos with the weapons and reinforce the spirit of resistance in our children,” said Gaza resident Abu Mohammed Abu Shakian.
The exhibition is “encouraging and means that the liberation of our land is near”, added Shahadeh Dalou, who also came with his children.
Bassam Darwish, 58, said people wanted to show their support for the Al-Qassam Brigades.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Australia, Britain, Israel and the European Union.
“Everyone is happy and proud of the Al-Qassam exhibition. We are here because we’re proud of the resistance,” he said.
Around 2.3 million Palestinians live in the impoverished Gaza Strip which has been under a crippling Israeli-led blockade since Hamas seized power in 2007.
Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have fought several wars since.
©️ Agence France-Presse