Israel this week refused to allow five hairdressers to leave Gaza and participate in a spring fair for nurturing Palestinian beauty and tradition, due to take place next week in the West Bank.

A negative response to the hairdressers' request to visit Tul Karm was given by the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration. The reason: "In light of the present security-diplomatic situation, the entry of residents of the Gaza Strip into Israel is permitted only in exceptional humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on medical cases."

The planned delegation comprised three female hairdressers and two barbers. Aqbal Kishta, owner of a beauty salon in Gaza, said on Monday that she and her friends feel discriminated against, compared to male businessmen and merchants to whom Israel grants exit permits.

In fact, on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, it says, "Every day 100 Palestinian businessmen are able to cross from the Gaza Strip into Israel, for the sake of promoting trade and the business sector in the Strip."

Kishta said the fair had been important for her and her colleagues - in order to exchange ideas and skills with colleagues in the profession, and also to disprove prejudices that exist about Gaza and send a message that "the residents of Gaza are not cut off from their Palestinian society and from thoughts about beauty."

The request, penned by Gisha - Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, emphasized the fact that three of the petitioners were independent businesswomen. "That's why it is especially important to approve their request to participate in the fair. All over the world, including in the Gaza Strip, women are 'eligible' for few opportunities. That is why women should be encouraged to aspire to economic independence so that in the future, they will be able to help develop the society in which they live."

Seven Gaza students were also recently unable to attend a professional event in the West Bank. They had been invited to participate in an international technological competition organized by Microsoft, on March 12 at Al-Quds University.

In this case, too, Gisha asked the Administration to pay attention to the importance of the professional advancement of women, especially in technological fields. Again, the request was rejected.

The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (to which the Coordination and Liaison Administration is subordinate ) said: "The request was rejected in light of the fact that the petitioners do not meet the criteria, to the effect that leaving Gaza will be allowed only in exceptional humanitarian cases and in urgent medical cases. All the requests are individually examined, in accordance with the particular circumstances of each and every case, without regard to gender, and in accordance with an individual security check that affects the petitioner and/or his family, all subordinate to the present policy."