GAZA - The Palestinian Authority began taking down the flags of terror groups that decorate Gaza City streets on Sunday to try to remove all but the national colors.
But the timing of the move added to tension with Hamas, whose green Islamic banner has long dominated many Gaza neighborhoods.
Police Chief Ala Hosni ordered his forces to remove the flags under a deal reached by factions a month ago that only the red, green, black and white national flag could be flown in public places.
The factions had set no date for implementation, though.
Hamas called the timing "Provocative", days after its gunmen fought fierce battles with Palestinian security forces that moved in to block them from firing at Israel, where a woman was killed by a Qassam rocket on Thursday.
Palestinian factions, each with its own color flag, have long flown their banners on electricity and telephone poles across the Gaza Strip and waved them during street marches that often serve as shows of strength.
While Hamas has green flags, Islamic Jihad has black, Abbas' dominant Fatah movement yellow, and leftist factions red.
"Police began removing flags today in order to provoke tension," Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri said. He added that Hamas had no objection to removing factional flags in principle and had ordered supporters not to intervene.
In one Gaza street, Hamas supporters argued with police as they removed the flags. They asked to take down their own flags and police agreed, Masri said.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said anyone involved in clashes with Palestinian security forces would be brought to justice.