US university – maybe next year?
Photo: AP

US grants canceled for 7 Gaza students

Fulbright scholarship recipients to stay home, cannot leave Strip due to Gaza siege; Rice says she's surprised by decision

Hadeel Abu Kawik was supposed to spend next year in the United States on the prestigious Fulbright scholarship program, but now it appears she will remain trapped in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli blockade.

Word that the US State Department was canceling her scholarship came after Abu Kawik, 23, a computer engineering student, went through a lengthy process for the scholarship that included interviews, exams and an English test.


"I was building my hope on this scholarship," she said Friday.


In all, seven Gaza students lost their grants. The decision was made because they would not be able to get exit visas from Israel, according to State Department Spokesman Tom Casey.


The scholarships meant for the Gazans will be offered instead to Palestinian students from the West Bank, Casey said, "rather than lose them for this year." The eight Gazans will be eligible next year, he said.


Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was surprised to learn that the State Department had yanked the scholarships. Rice said she is going to look into it since she believes it's important to help young Palestinians. She said that engaging young people is key to the future of a

Palestinian state.


Later, the State Department said it was pressing the Israeli government to allow the Palestinian students to travel to the United States.


"We are trying to revisit this issue with the Israeli government," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters


'I don't know what to do'

An Israeli military spokesman said the US made the decision about the scholarships on its own, but confirmed that only urgent humanitarian cases are allowed through Gaza's crossings and that does not include students.


"We are extremely sorry that we are unable to finalize your scholarship at this time, and hope you will reapply next year and be able to complete your studies in the US," read the letter received Thursday by another one of the eight students from the US consulate in Jerusalem.


Abu Kawik's said her family, living in the United Arab Emirates, has repeatedly asked her to leave Gaza. But she insisted on staying because of her hopes for the Fulbright grant.


"Now I don't know what to do — to wait by myself in Gaza for another year with no guarantee what the answer will be?" Abu Kawik said. "Actually I just don't know. I was astonished at how the United States government cannot get a few students out of Gaza."


פרסום ראשון: 05.30.08, 16:02
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