Israel allowed four Palestinian

Fulbright scholars to travel to Jerusalem to

apply for U.S. student visas, but it delayed permission for three others to

leave the Gaza Strip, one of the students and a human-rights group

said yesterday.

U.S. officials had protested

Israel's initial refusal to allow the scholars to leave the Hamas-ruled territory. Israel, which has imposed a blockade on Gaza, cited security considerations.

The prestigious scholarships

were briefly deferred when the students could

not get out of Gaza but were reinstated Monday after intercession by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Gisha, an Israeli human-rights group

that escorted the four students after they entered Israel, said the delay for the three other students probably meant security checks were taking longer than anticipated.

- Associated Press