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US State Department Reinstates Fulbright Grants to Palestinian Students


The U.S. State Department has reinstated seven Fulbright scholarship grants for Palestinian students in Gaza. The grants allow the students to travel to the United States to study.

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem sent e-mail messages late Sunday to all seven students telling them it is "working closely" with Israeli officials to secure exit permits, which would allow them to leave Gaza.

On Thursday, U.S. officials had withdrawn the prestigious scholarship awards because Israel would not grant exit visas to the students.

Israel's Supreme Court will hear petitions Monday, brought by the human rights group Gisha on behalf of two other Palestinian students seeking exit permits for study programs in Germany and Britain.

A spokeswoman for Gisha - an Israeli group that lobbies for freedom of movement for Palestinians - said nearly 700 students are being denied the right to leave the Gaza Strip for studies abroad.

Israel has sealed off Gaza in an effort to isolate Hamas, the militant group that took control of the territory last year.

The issue of the Palestinian students surfaced in a New York Times story Friday. It said that because Israel had not acted on visa requests, the students' fellowships had been withdrawn and would be given instead to West Bank Palestinians able to travel.

However, some senior Israeli officials told the newspaper they were nto aware of the case, and would facilitate the students' travel if the matter is referred to them.

Named for the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, the grants are the flagship U.S. government educational exchange program, and are used to promote a better understanding of U.S. values abroad.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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