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updated 6/5/2010 3:30:54 PM ET 2010-06-05T19:30:54

An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday upheld a ruling that orders the country's Interior Ministry to strip the citizenship from Egyptians married to Israeli women.

The case underlines the deep animosity many Egyptians still hold toward Israelis, despite a peace treaty signed between the two countries 31 years ago.

The Supreme Administrative Court's decision also scores a point for Egyptian hard-liners who have long resisted any improvement in ties with Israel since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty.

In upholding last year's lower court ruling, the appeals court said Saturday that the Interior Ministry should present each marriage case to the Cabinet on an individual basis. The Cabinet will then rule on whether to strip the Egyptian of his citizenship.

The court also said officials should take into consideration whether a man married an Israeli Arab or a Jew when making its decision to revoke citizenship.

Saturday's decision, which cannot be appealed, comes more than year after a lower court ruled that the Interior Ministry, which deals with citizenship documents, must implement the 1976 article of the citizenship law. That bill revokes citizenship of Egyptians who married Israelis who have served in the army or embrace Zionism as an ideology. The Interior Ministry appealed that ruling.

The lawyer who brought the original suit to court, Nabih el-Wahsh, celebrated Saturday's ruling, saying it "is aimed at protecting Egyptian youth and Egypt's national security."

The government has not released figures of Egyptians married to Israeli women, but some estimates put the number around 30,000.

Israeli officials said they had no comment on Saturday's ruling.

In 2005, former Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wasel issued a religious edict, or fatwa, saying Muslim Egyptians may not marry Israeli nationals, "whether Arab, Muslim, or Christian." The possibility of a Jewish spouse was not mentioned.

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the late Grand Sheik of Cairo's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's premier institution and oldest university, has said that while marriage between an Egyptian man and an Israeli woman is not religiously forbidden, the government has the right to strip the man of his citizenship for marrying a woman from "an enemy state."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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