Hamas has instructed schoolgirls in the Gaza Strip to wear the jilbab (Islamic long-sleeved dress) and head scarves or face being expelled from school. The movement has also banned girls from wearing jeans at school. The latest order follows a similar directive that was issued earlier this month by a local judge requiring all female lawyers who appear in the Gaza Strip's courts to wear the hijab (Islamic head scarf). The cases are seen in the context of Hamas's efforts to enforce strict Islamic laws throughout the Strip. Until a few years ago, many Gazan schools endorsed jeans or trousers as an official uniform for girls. But since Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, schools have come under intense pressure to force girls to dress in accordance with Islamic rules. A source in the Hamas-controlled Education Ministry said that his ministry's policy was to allow each school administration to decide on the type of clothes students should wear. According to the source, the ministry decided this year to exempt all students from wearing school uniforms due to the financial crisis in the Gaza Strip. "Headmasters and headmistresses have been given a green light to decide on what type of clothes the students should wear," the source said. "In many schools, the administrations, in coordination with the families, decided to impose hijabs and jilbabs on girls." A veteran journalist in the Gaza Strip said that most girls who returned to schools that reopened on Sunday were seen dressed in traditional Islamic clothes. He noted, for instance, that at the Maghazi Girls Secondary School in the center of the Gaza Strip, "about 95 percent" of the girls showed up wearing jilbabs. "The few who came to school wearing jeans were warned that they would be expelled if they did not wear jilbabs," the journalist told The Jerusalem Post. The new academic year officially began in Gaza on Sunday, as more than 250,000 pupils headed to 383 government-run schools. Another 200,000 youngsters went to schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The academic year in the West Bank is scheduled to begin next week. Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah said the Hamas government had refused to coordinate the opening of the new academic year with the Education Ministry belonging to the government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.