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Hamas mass wedding (Screengrab from Youtube.com)
Hamas has strongly denied Internet rumors and blog reports claiming the Palestinian Islamic group last week held a mass ceremony at which little girls were married off.
A video circulating on the Internet, titled “Hamas shocking mass wedding for 450 little girls,” purports to show children who appear to be about 8 to 10 years old being married off in a mass Hamas ceremony last week. Little girls in what appear to be wedding dresses are filmed arriving in cars and then walking down an aisle with the grooms.
The video and related pictures generated scores of blog postings making similar claims that Hamas was marrying off hundreds of little girls.
WND received a large volume of e-mail asking the news organization to investigate.
Hamas indeed held a mass ceremony last Thursday in which nearly a thousand Palestinians celebrated marriage. Many of the families involved said they could not afford their own wedding party. Each groom received a present of about $500 from Hamas, which said its workers had also contributed 5 percent of their monthly salaries to add to the wedding gift.
Ahmed Jarbour, the Hamas official in Gaza responsible for social activity, told WND the youngest girl to marry at the ceremony was 16 years old. He said most brides were above the age of 18.
Jarbour, like two other top officials contacted by WND, was offended by the suggestion Hamas would marry off little girls.
He explained the minors seen in the video were family of the bride or groom. He said it was tradition for little girls to dress in gowns similar to the bride. He said the little girls walking down the aisle with the grooms are family members of either the bride or groom.
A WND review of the video found some of the little girls, speaking in Arabic, state they are at the wedding of a family member. The girls interviewed do not say anything about themselves getting married.
Multiple calls to Palestinians who participated in the wedding affirmed the little girls are not themselves the brides.
Hamas, meanwhile, hailed the wedding ceremony as a victory.
“We are saying to the world and to America that you cannot deny us joy and happiness,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas’ chief in Gaza, told the grooms at the event.