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Thursday February 21, 10:14 PM

Syria launches Arabs' first video game, on Intifada

To turn Arab children away from American video games featuring US soldiers killing Iraqis and Afghans, a Syrian publishing house has designed a video game on the Palestinian uprising, or intifada.

The new game is called Underash, and its hero is a young Palestinian stone- thrower, Ahmed, fighting Israeli soldiers and settlers.

"We seek to counterbalance the poisonous ideas conveyed by American video games to our children," said Hassan Salem, executive director of the project at the Dar al-Fikr publishing house.

"Our primary aim is educational; we want the new generation which doesn't hear the news to learn about the Palestinian cause," he added.

It took a year and a half to complete the Underash project, which is the first Arab three-dimensionnal video game.

"We used the same technology employed in the Western games featuring wars against Arabs and Moslems," said Khaled Fudda, a member of the design team.

Nada, a women buying Underash, said "I was shocked when my son told me the game he was playing was to kill Saddam Hussein," the Iraqi president.

Some 10,000 copies of the new game have been sold since it reached the Syrian market a month ago, carrying a price tag equivalent to eight dollars.

Dar al-Fikr expects major export contracts once Underash is authorised in other Arab states.

Fudda said the game can also be downloaded via Internet, but "Israelis destroyed the site several times and we had to rebuild it."

The game consists of six phases, starting with Ahmed trying to reach Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, dodging Jewish settlers' bullets and throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

Once he reaches the mosque compound, Ahmed has to evacuate injured Palestinians, grab the rifle of an Israeli soldier and expel the soldiers from the site.

In other phases, Ahmed tries to infiltrate a Jewish settlement and raise the Palestinan flag, and to sneak into an Israeli army weapons storage facility. He is caught and he tries to escape.

The final task is in southern Lebanon. Ahmed takes part in a Lebanese guerrilla attack against an Israeli radar position, during which the soldiers are killed and the facility destroyed.

The game designers stressed that Ahmed "is only attacking the occupation forces, soldiers and settlers, never the civilians."

"We aspire to peace, we are simply telling the story of a people uprooted from his homeland, whose children are killed," said the owner of Dar al-Fikr, Mohammad Salem.

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