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The United States government has lodged a vigorous protest with Israel over its restrictions on the entry of Palestinian-Americans into the territories.

State Department officials told senior Israeli diplomats in Washington that they find it "hard to understand" Israel's discriminating against American citizens based on their ethnic background.

The officials also stressed that in the past, the U.S. had encouraged Palestinian-Americans to settle in the territories, in order to facilitate Palestinian economic growth.

Some of these individuals own homes and businesses in the territories, and the Israeli restrictions make it hard for them to look after their assets.

Israel promised to look into the American complaint. A diplomatic source in Jerusalem said yesterday that the individuals involved have been blacklisted for security reasons, based on targeted intelligence.