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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Hamas bans Gaza outdoor prayers
Palestinian women demonstrate in Gaza City (4 September 2007)
Dozens of women defied a ban on public demonstrations on Tuesday
Hamas has banned outdoor prayer gatherings in the Gaza Strip, just days after supporters of the rival Fatah group used them to mount mass protests.

About 20 people were injured on Friday when Hamas security forces broke up the biggest show of opposition to the group since it took control of Gaza in June.

The thousands of protesters accused the Islamists of violating civil liberties and using mosques to spread propaganda.

Earlier, dozens of women defied a ban and staged a peaceful protest in Gaza.

The Fatah supporters called for an end to the arbitrary arrests and the alleged beatings of their family members by Hamas.

The Islamist group has insisted it conducts its arrests for reasons of law and order.

Factional tensions

A spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, said it had examined Friday's "troubles" and decided to ban "all gatherings organised under the guise of Friday prayers".

The government will take all necessary measures to support security and public order in Gaza
Hamas statement

"They went beyond the aim of prayers and were used for the purpose of chaos, strife, rioting, and practicing terrorism," Tahir al-Nunu said in a statement.

"The government will take all necessary measures to support security and public order in Gaza."

Opposition to Hamas has become increasingly vocal over the last two-and-a-half months, during which Gaza has been sealed off by Israel as it and much of the international community looks to isolate the Islamist group.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Ramallah says that isolation is contributing to factional tensions which are rising in the territory once again.

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