The militant Palestinian group Hamas sponsored a mass wedding of 382 Palestinian couples in a refugee camp in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Hamas has held such weddings in the past in Syria, where the group's exiled leadership is based, but Friday's ceremony at the Yarmouk refugee camp was by far the largest. The mass weddings aim to help young people who often put off marriage because they can't afford the costs.
The brides and grooms were separated during the wedding party, which was attended by 10,000 people, since observant Muslims are not supposed to mix in public. The grooms wore suits and some waved green Hamas banners as fireworks echoed in the background. "Hamas feels the need of Palestinian society and we felt there was a desire for marriage but high costs were an obstacle," said the head of Hamas' public relations office in Syria, Talal Nassar. "That's why Hamas helped this group get married." Many Palestinians living in refugee camps are jobless and have few prospects for gaining employment.
Nassar said Hamas also encourages such mass weddings because "demographics play a role in the conflict between us and the Zionists (Israel)."
Cleric Hussein Khalil al-Aawadeh, an official at the Yarmouk camp, said each couple will receive $2,100 in cash and gifts. The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, but the group has widespread popularity among Palestinians, in part due to providing social services, such as these weddings. "Thanks for Hamas. Had it not been for them I wouldn't have been able to get married," said groom Fuad Hamada.