Condoleezza Rice will investigate whether Israel’s blockade of Gaza cost seven Palestinians their Fulbright scholarships.
“Perhaps there are reasons, but I want to look into why this has happened,” the U.S. secretary of state said Friday, after The New York Times reported that the State Department-run program withdrew the scholarships because Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip barred them from leaving the territory to travel to the United States.
Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said the students would be eligible for scholarships in a year.
Israeli officials expressed surprise at the decision, the Times reported, saying that allowing the students to leave would have come under the rubric of humanitarian exceptions to the blockade.
The Israel Policy Forum called on Congress to rescind the decision and reinstate the Fullbright scholarships.
Israel instituted the blockade in January in a bid to pressure the Hamas regime in the strip to end rocket attacks on Israel’s south.