Children's group to glorify 'martyrdom' in Gaza concert

A Jordanian children's musical troupe well-known for songs that glorify "martyrdom" in battle with Israel was to perform a rare outdoor concert in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

The group, known as The Birds of Paradise, recently produced a music video circulated on the Internet in which a young girl sings, "When we die as martyrs we will go to heaven."

On a stage made to look like a Palestinian village children dressed as Israeli soldiers "massacre" civilians before the camera switches to a grown man singing, "Children you have fulfilled your religious obligation... You have taught us the meaning of manhood."

Thousands were expected to attend the concert at 9:00 pm (1800 GMT), and another performance was scheduled for Wednesday.

The group was founded in 1994 and launched a channel in January 2008 on Egypt's Nilesat. The three-day visit to Gaza is part of a regional tour.

Khaled Muqdad, the founder of the 12-member troupe, told AFP they had come "to put smiles on the faces of children who have suffered from the Israeli war and the (internal) political troubles."

And at a formal welcoming ceremony with Hamas MPs, he said the concert would "affirm to the entire world the right of the children of Palestine to live in freedom and dignity."

There have been few public cultural events in Gaza since Hamas seized power in June 2007, and earlier this year the Islamist movement broke up the concert of a local hip-hop group it said did not have the proper permits.

Hamas has taken few steps to impose Islamic law in Gaza's historically conservative society but it has promoted its Islamist ideology and armed struggle against Israel through its Al-Aqsa television station.

The channel shows music videos and cartoons glorifying the killing of Israeli soldiers, as well as a children's show with a Mickey Mouse-like character that encourages martyrdom and armed struggle leading to the destruction of Israel.

Hamas, which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and violently seized power in Gaza the following year, is sworn to the destruction of Israel and has launched scores of deadly attacks since it was founded in 1987. -NZ Herald

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