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(photo credit:AP [file])
A hitherto unknown group calling itself the Just Swords of Islam issued a warning to Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip over the weekend that they must wear the hijab or face being targeted by the group's members.
In pamphlets distributed in various parts of the Gaza Strip, the group also claimed responsibility for attacks on 12 Internet cafes over the past few days.
The warning was directed primarily against female students in a number of universities and colleges who do not cover their heads in line with Islamic tradition.
The group said its followers last week threw acid at the face of a young woman who was dressed "immodestly" in the center of Gaza City. They also destroyed a car belonging to a young man who was playing his radio tape too loudly.
Addressing female students, the group said: "We will have no mercy on any woman who violates the traditions of Islam and who also hang out in Internet cafes."
According to the group, its members used rocket-propelled grenades to attack 12 Internet cafes and a number of music shops in different parts of the Gaza Strip.
It said the places were targeted because they
were "distracting an entire generation of Palestinians from their duty to worship [Alla] and jihad so that they could serve their Zionist masters and the Crusaders."
Hamas officials denied any connection to the group, noting that their movement does not resort to methods of "intimidation and terror" against the people.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reacted with mixed feelings to the group's threats. While many seemed to support the demand that all women wear the hijab, others expressed fear that the group was trying to create a Taliban-style regime.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
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