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Hamas eyes lingerie shops in modesty drive

New regulations on shops to safeguard "public morality

The Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday ordered lingerie shops to display more modesty as part of a campaign to safeguard "public morality".

The Hamas-run police force has told stores selling women's underwear to remove scantily-clad mannequins and any posters of racy undergarments.

"It is absolutely forbidden to place any photographic device inside the shop and it is forbidden to display revealing clothes in front of the shop," a statement said.

"These measures have stemmed from complaints and pressure by ordinary people. They have to do with upholding our traditions," police spokesman Ayman Al-Batniji said on Wednesday.

The edict came nearly two weeks after Hamas banned women from smoking water pipes in public places and is the latest step taken by the Islamist movement to crack down on the mingling of the sexes in the conservative territory.

Hamas leaders have repeatedly denied any intention to impose Islamic law on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

But Hamas police have broken up a hip-hop concert in the territory and tried -- unsuccessfully -- to force women lawyers in court and female school students to wear traditional Muslim clothing, a step that drew a public backlash.

Hamas's modesty moves were widely seen by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as attempts to mollify more conservative Islamic factions that have accused the movement of failing to uphold Islamic Sharia law.

These measures have stemmed from complaints and pressure by ordinary people. They have to do with upholding our traditions

Police spokesman Ayman Al-Batniji