GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip − A United Nations agency said on Tuesday it was canceling the Gaza marathon because Hamas was not allowing women to run.
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The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which assists Palestinian refugees and also sponsors and organizes the event, announced on Tuesday that plans for the April race have been scrapped.
A statement from agency says that "this disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate" in the marathon.
“The authorities in Gaza this year insisted that women should not participate in the marathon and we couldn’t agree to that because there are standard UN values that we adhere (to),” Sami Mshasha, a Gaza spokesman for the UNRWA told DPA.
“Women are a very key component of Palestinian society and the Palestinian fiber and their participation in such a marathon should be a natural thing,” he said.
A Hamas statement only said that “any sport activity is welcome as long as it does not contradict with the traditions and habits in Gaza and on condition that such actions will not bring negative reactions from the public.”
The event was scheduled for April 10 and would have been the third Gaza marathon.
Some 50 women from various European countries and elsewhere had signed up for the marathon, said Mshasha.
“I’m not privy to why they decided this year not to allow women to take part in the marathon,” he said.
Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 after ousting the rival secular Fatah movement, allowed women to participate in the two previous marathons organized by the UNRWA.
An estimated 1.1 million of Gaza’s population of 1.7 million are registered with UNRWA.
The UN said that it was working on an alternative program of events for runners who had already booked tickets, including visiting Palestinian families and projects it runs in Gaza.