Hamas officials did their best Bill Murray imitation this week, refusing to allow a United Nations agency to sponsor a marathon in Gaza that would have included women runners.
Rather than yield to a demand for gender segregation, the UNRWA pulled the plug on the third annual race. That's a disappointment to the 551 Palestinians who signed up for the event, including 266 women. Another 256 people from outside Gaza registered for the race, including 119 women.
"We regret this decision to cancel the marathon but we don't want men and women running together," Hamas cabinet official Abdessalam Siyyam, told the Agence France Presse. "We did not tell UNRWA to cancel the marathon and we haven't prevented it, but we laid down some conditions: We don't want women and men mixing in the same place."
One can only imagine the horror that might result.
At least they are consistent. Since taking control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has issued strict dress codes for school girls, banned male hair stylists from cutting women's hair and cracked down on unmarried men and women socializing at Gaza beaches.
The UN tried to be sensitive to Hamas religious restrictions, issuing instructions that women dress modestly, but that wasn't sufficient.
"UNRWA regrets to announce that it has had to cancel the third UNRWA marathon which was to be held on 10 April," a statement from the agency said. "This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate."
Proceeds from the event would have benefitted summer camps for Palestinian children in Gaza. That won't happen, but the kids will be spared the horror of men and women exercising together.