Gaza's third international marathon has been cancelled after the ruling Hamas movement refused to allow women to participate, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said on Tuesday.

The marathon, which runs the entire length of the coastal territory, was to have taken place on April 10.

"UNRWA regrets to announce that it has had to cancel the third UNRWA marathon which was to be held on 10 April. This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate," a brief UNRWA statement said.

There was no immediate comment from Gaza's Hamas rulers.

UNRWA said it was working on an alternative programme of events for those who had signed up for the race, which would have seen entrants running either the full 42-kilometre (26-mile) marathon, the half marathon or a 10-kilometre dash.

"UNRWA sincerely regrets the inconvenience this causes those who planned to participate in the marathon," the agency said.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]