GAZA, July 31 (RIA Novosti) - The Palestinian Hamas movement organized a mass wedding of 450 couples and engagement ceremony for another 100 couples in Gaza City's main square on Friday as thousands looked on.
The event gave poor newlyweds the chance to save money on their wedding and political organizations, which footed the bill, the chance to show publicly they care about the younger generation.
Only the bridegrooms, dressed in strict black suits, were on the decorated stage before the ceremony, while the brides were hidden from the public's view.
The ceremony included prayers, political speeches, a motorcycle parade, performances by a men's choir and child couples dancing, as well as fireworks and a lottery for household appliances. In addition, each groom received cash from the organizers.
"First of all, we are a Palestinian opposition organization, but we can not ignore the other sides of life, we can not forget that blockades and occupation should not take away our young people's chance for happiness," the top Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, Abdullah al-Shami, told RIA Novosti.
Israel has maintained an almost continual blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power from the Fatah movement in June 2007. The 1.5 million Gaza residents suffer from severe shortages of medicine, food and fuel.