The Palestinian Authority on Sunday cancelled the first Miss Palestine beauty contest that was supposed to take place in Ramallah later this week under the pretext that it coincides with the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The PA warned the organizers that they would be punished if they violated the ban. The event was organized by the Ramallah-based commercial company Trip Model. Salwa Yusef, director of the company, said she received about 200 applications from Arab girls living in the West Bank and Israel. Yusef said that only 58 girls were selected to participate in the contest, which was due to take place on December 26. She said that girls from the Gaza Strip were unable to present their candidacy because of the Israeli "blockade." She added that the none of the girls were supposed to appear in bathing suits or "immodest clothing" and expressed regret over the PA's decision to ban the beauty pageant. Last week Hamas strongly condemned the planned Miss Palestine contest as a violation of Islamic teachings and called for its cancellation. Hamas also accused the PA, which had initially given its blessing to the event, of "spreading moral corruption."