U.N. Agency Cancels Gaza Marathon Over Hamas Ban On Women
The main U.N. agency in Gaza "has canceled the annual marathon in the small Palestinian territory after ruling Hamas Islamists banned women from the race," according to Nidal al-Mughrabi of REUTERS. Hamas said that "having women in the annual event, scheduled for April 10, contravened Islamic tradition even though dozens of Palestinian school girls had started the two previous marathons." The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which sponsors the race, said in a statement: "This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza, who have insisted that no women should participate." Relations between UNRWA and Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since '07 and is shunned by the West over its hostility toward Israel, "have been strained at times." Some Hamas officials "have accused UNRWA of failing to include representatives of the Gaza government when UNRWA has hosted meetings with international visitors." Several Hamas lawmakers "have been critical of the curriculum in UNRWA-run schools" (REUTERS, 3/5).
EXPRESSING REGRET: The AP's Ian Deitch reported Gaza government spokesperson Taher Nunu said that "Hamas regretted the cancellation of the marathon, but that it had told the U.N. agency that local norms must be respected." Nunu said, "We emphasize that the government had informed UNRWA about its approval to organize this event ... maintaining certain matters related to the customs and traditions of the Palestinian people" (AP, 3/5).