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Reuters, Published March 05 2013

Hot Topics: Gaza marathon canceled after Hamas bans women runners

GAZA – The main United Nations agency in Gaza has canceled the annual marathon in the small Palestinian territory after ruling Hamas Islamists banned women from the race.

Hamas said having women in the annual event, scheduled for April 10, contravened Islamic tradition even though dozens of Palestinian schoolgirls had started the two previous marathons.

“This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza, who have insisted that no women should participate,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which sponsors the race, said in a statement.

This year’s field of 1,500 schoolchildren and 800 adults was to have included a record number of women – 260 Palestinians and 119 foreigners, UNRWA said. The children’s participation is symbolic – they begin the race but run only a few hundred meters, while the adults do the full 26 miles.