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An Egyptian court on Tuesday struck down an agreement to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, delivering a rare rebuke to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's government over a decision that sparked the biggest street protests of his two-year rule.The government, which is appealing the ruling, insists the islands always belonged to Saudi Arabia, which has provided billions of dollars in aid to Egypt since el-Sissi led the military's 2013 ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.El-Sissi's government, together with loyal media, has zealously defended the April agreement, arguing that it would bring economic benefits to Egypt. It says the islands were only placed under Egyptian control in 1950 for protection from Israel, which briefly occupied them six years later during the Suez crisis.In a 21-page citation, the court said the reality on the ground shows that Egypt has long exercised full and uncontested sovereignty over the two islands.Others wondered why the government was so determined to proceed with the agreement.
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