Source AP ©

Grooms celebrate collective wedding party for 100 couples without brides in Gaza Strip

Gaza authorities organized a collective wedding party Thursday for 100 couples, where grooms celebrated without their brides in observance of Islamic law.

The party, sponsored by the head of the Hamas government, featured a band of drummers, Islamic songs and chocolate bars. About 2,000 relatives attended the party, including the brides, who sat in the audience.

"This is an Islamic wedding. The men are separated from the women," explained Ashraf al-Rifi of Hamas, who helped organize the party.

Hamas overran Gaza in June, driving out the forces loyal to moderate President Mahmoud Abbas. The West is maintaining a boycott of Hamas and its regime, while embracing Abbas and his West Bank government,.

Despite economic sanctions imposed on Gaza, Hamas has been paying regular cash stipends and monthly allowances to supporters and workers, using money from smuggling and indirect aid.

The wedding party was the latest example. Each groom received a financial donation of $300 (210 EUR), almost a month's salary in the impoverished territory.

The grooms, wearing green sashes with Hamas' name plastered on it, walked from the mosque nearby to the local park where the party was held. They then stood on a stage and swayed to the drumbeats. They were flanked by little girls dressed as brides.

The wedding party aims to "help our sons and brothers in these tough days. We want to help our bachelor sons to be able to form a sound Islamic family," said Zuhdi Abu Nemaa, of Hamas.

"This is instead of holding a single party for each. It saves money," said Abu Mohammed, a 30-year old groom.