The Hamas government of Gaza has begun blocking all pornographic websites in the Gaza Strip, in a bid to protect “weak elements of society.”

Kamal Masri, head of the licensing department at the ministry of communications, told Ma’an News Agency that his ministry is not blocking the sites, but rather is requiring the 10 internet providers in Gaza to block them.

The decision, which went into effect on Saturday, follows a number of other moves curtailing personal freedoms in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist movement. In 2010 Hamas banned women from smoking water pipes in cafes, claiming it “destroys marriages and sullies the image of the Palestinian people.” The following year, Hamas banned male hairdressers from working in Gaza.

Masri said that the ministry notified the internet providers of the decision last month, and will fine companies that do not comply with the new regulations.

“The decision to block pornographic websites in the Gaza Strip is long overdue,” wrote Issam Shawar, a columnist with the pro-Hamas daily Felesteen on Monday. “We hope the PA in Ramallah will take similar decision, although I expect it will wage a fierce battle against Gaza — internal and external — accusing it of stifling freedoms.”

Initial implementation of the ban was not without glitches. On Saturday, as the ban went into action, internet users complained that a number of Palestinian news sites were inaccessible.

Soheil Madoukh, a ministry official, told Safa News Agency that some technical difficulties were addressed with certain companies, adding that blocked sites are clearly marked with a message notifying the user that they were blocked for “violating etiquette.”

Shawar, the Felesteen columnist, said Hamas’s decision did not come a moment too soon.

“We have learned that pornographic websites … have been receiving many views in Palestinian society over the past two years, surpassing social and news websites, including official ones like the WAFA news agency [the official Palestinian News Agency],” he wrote. “This is a dangerous indicator which must push us to create an active plan to protect our Palestinian society.”