Hundreds of Palestinian police officers loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, have marched in the Gaza Strip in a show of strength against the newly formed Hamas security forces, the Qatar based Al Jazeera reported.

About 1,000 men marched through the streets of Gaza on Thursday, chanting: "We are the authority. We salute Abu Mazin (Mahmoud Abbas)".

Abbas is also head of Fateh movement that dominated the Palestinian Authority until it was defeated by Hamas in the January legislative council elections.

The protest came in response to Wednesday’s deployment by Hamas of 3,000-fighters, mostly members of its military wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, armed with assault rifles, grenades and missiles, Al Jazeera added.

The policemen, marching unarmed, ran through the streets of Gaza, and conducted drills near the newly formed Hamas patrols. They were followed by commanders in Jeeps, the commanders weapons were raised in the air.

They chanted: "Jerusalem, the president, the homeland",  clapped and whistled.

General Suleiman Hilles, commander of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, said the forces were deployed to send a message that "the Palestinian police are the only side that can maintain law and order".

Yet, there are some police officers at the Palestinian Police Forces who back the Hamas movement.

Hilles also said that several hundred officers met Ismail Haniyya, the Palestinian prime minister, on Thursday and declared their loyalty to the Hamas-led government.

Haniyya told them that the new unit was formed legally, and that it would not cancel the security forces but will work alongside with them.

Palestinian Chief Negotiator and Abbas’s Advisor, Dr. Saeb Erikat, said on Thursday that Abbas had asked the government to take the new unit off the streets immediately.

Haniyya responded by stating that the new unit was legally formed and that it would not be disbanded.