On Sept. 15, the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that, in May, Qatar had stopped funding a group of Gaza schools operated by Hamas’s Dar Al-Arqam association.

According to the report, the Qatari institution that had funded the schools gradually decreased its support for them in 2017, until finally ceasing all of its activity in Gaza in August of that year. The Qatari institution that provided the aid to the DarAl-Arqam schools for over a decade is the Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Aal Thani Charitable Association, which is subordinate to Qatar’s Labor and Social Services Ministry, and according to many reports is close to Qatari regime circles.[1]

The London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that, after the aid ceased, Hamas urged Qatar to provide it through some other organization or to a different Hamas body, noting that they are attended by “hundreds of sons and daughters of Palestinian martyrs,” but Qatar refused this request. The report speculated that Qatar was concerned that the funding of the schools could be construed as support for terrorism.[2]

The Dar Al-Arqam association was founded in 2000 by Hamas officials, among them the movement’s late leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin.[3] The four schools it runs, which received Qatari funding for years, are attended inter alia by children of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives killed in confrontations with Israel. The schools inculcate Hamas’s ideology and glorify its founders and the jihad against Israel, and provide students with military training, including weapons training, conducted by members of Hamas’s security apparatuses.

Qatar’s support for Dar Al-Arqam

As stated, reports indicate that Qatar supported the Dar Al-Arqam[4] schools for about a decade, since Hama’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip. At a June 4, 2008 graduation ceremony at one of the schools, Dr. Muhammad Shama’a, then-head of the association’s board of trustees, thanked the association’s supporters, and in particular the Qatari Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Aal Thani Charitable Association, which he said had “supported the Dar Al-Arqam schools and sponsored orphans of the martyrs and prisoners.”[5]

Reports in the Qatari government press indicate that in 2013 it invested some $50 million in projects in Palestine, including in Dar Al-Arqam,[6] and that in 2014 it provided aid to over 6,000 Palestinian orphans. A July 2014 report on the charity in the Qatari daily Al-Arab presented statements by Amira ‘Asliya, daughter of Wafi ‘Asliya, an operative in the PIJ military wing who was killed by Israel in 2004.[7]  She praised the Sheikh Eid Bin Muhammad Association and its material and moral support for Dar Al-Arqam.[8]

Military training at Dar Al-Arqam schools

In addition to serving as part of Hamas’s social and educational infrastructure, the Dar Al-Arqam schools are part of the movement’s military recruitment and training mechanism. Members of Hamas’s security apparatuses visit the schools and conduct military training as part of the Futuwwa program, intended to teach military skills and instill values of discipline, valor and sacrifice. The program serves as an initiation into further Hamas programs for children and teens, like the summer camps and training camps operated by the movement’s military wing, the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, which train youngsters for jihad against Israel.[18] The schools hold events and ceremonies at which the program graduates display their skills, including foot drills, the use of weapons and other fighting skills.

Read the full report at MEMRI.