Hamas 'to block pornographic websites in Gaza'

Hamas rally in the West Bank village of Yatta, 2006 Hamas officials said they were responding to concerns raised by parents and teachers

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Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas has announced plans to ban access to pornographic websites in Gaza, local media have reported.

The group, which controls Gaza, wants the 10 main internet providers to shut down sites with sexually explicit content from 1 September.

The move is aimed at protecting the social fabric of Gaza, officials said.

Critics fear the technology used to bar porn could also be employed to target sites expressing political dissent.

Efforts to block explicit online content in Gaza began in 2008 when Hamas authorities signed an accord with Palestinian telecommunications company PalTel to start implementing filters.

But observers say the latest move is the group's biggest attempt to date to ban pornographic content.

However, Gaza officials said the government was not blocking the sites, but asking internet providers to implement safe content standards used internationally, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

Hamas, which took control of the Gaza strip in 2007, advocates a strict form of Islam.

Last year, it enforced a law banning men from cutting women's hair.

In 2008, mannequins and pictures of underwear models were removed from women's clothes shops.

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