Thousands of children in Gaza have attempted to set a new world kite-flying record amid the ruins of Israel’s criminal offensive earlier this year. The effort represents a brave display of joy in the territory.

The UN-sponsored festive event brought some 6,000 campers in orange uniforms and blue caps to a beach in the north of the Gaza Strip, where they released their kites into clear skies.

Some included designs such as the red, green, black and white Palestinian flag.

‘We are happy. We came here, full of joy, full of life,’ said 11-year-old Marwan Mohammad. ‘We hope that we can be free and can enjoy the same freedom these kites enjoy in the air. All we are looking for is to grow up like normal children.’

He said that his neighbourhood in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, was bombarded in Israel’s January offensive against Palestinian rocket launchers.

He said that many of his friends’ relatives were killed in the attacks.

The 1.4 million Palestinians living in Gaza are not free to come and go. Gaza is surrounded on the land by an Israeli-built fence and its sea coast is heavily patrolled by Israeli vessels.

A stifling economic blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt has prevented Gazans from rebuilding their towns.

John Ging, the head of the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, said the fact that the event was taking place in Gaza held special significance.

‘It is an expression of the demand for liberty by these children,’ he said. ‘Look at what the children of Gaza can do if they are given a chance.’