Israeli officials have given permission to 100 Palestinian doctors to drive to jobs at Israeli hospitals — the first time Palestinian motorists have been permitted to enter the country in 15 years.

Cogat, the Israeli security branch responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, says its commander, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, approved the order for doctors who "work shifts and other jobs that require heightened responsiveness."

The program began on Tuesday. Officials say it could be expanded if it is successful.

Israel restricted Palestinian access to the country after the outbreak of an armed uprising against Israeli rule in late 2000. Palestinians need permits and must cross through checkpoints in order to enter.

Israel gradually has lifted some restrictions in recent years as violence has calmed down.