Gaza City, Jan 06 (Agencies): The Hamas Government in Gaza on Wednesday said that it would issue personal firearm permits for the first time since it took control of the coastal enclave.

"The police have decided to authorise the issue of weapons permits for individuals or person who need them for self-defence, such as gold traders, money changers, businessmen and factory owners," Hamas police spokesman Amin al-Batniji said in a statement.

He said the permits would allow recipients to have certain types of pistols, though without silencers, and in some cases would authorise M16s, Kalashnikovs or shotguns, if the police judged they were necessary.

But he added that the new regulations would not affect weapons owned by "resistance" fighters.

"The weapons of the resistance are legal weapons protected by the law and are not subject to or affected by this decision," Batniji said.

Permits will only be issued to people over the age of 21 with no criminal arrest record, his statement said.

Hamas has maintained a strict monopoly on the circulation of weapons since taking control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after driving members of the rival Fatah movement from the coastal enclave.