GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The United Nations canceled a planned marathon in Gaza after the Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers banned women from participating, in a new attempt by the Islamic militant group to impose its ideology inside the crowded coastal strip.
The dispute threatened to further strain the already delicate relationship between Hamas and the UN. Gaza sportswomen met the news with resignation, saying their conservative society had made it difficult to train even before the ban.
Since seizing power in Gaza in 2007, Hamas has issued a number of edicts meant to constrain the freedoms of women. But many of these initiatives fizzled in the face of public opposition, making the ban on female runners somewhat surprising. Hamas had also recently relaxed some of its earlier orders imposing its conservative interpretation of Islamic law.
The race was meant to run the entire length of the tiny territory -- which is slightly shorter than the official length of a 26.2 mile (42-kilometer) marathon. Some 800 people registered, including 266 Palestinian women and 119 women from abroad.