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Egyptians convicted for anti-Israeli rioting

A Cairo court has issued suspended one-year jail terms for 75 Egyptians who were among rioters who stormed the Israeli embassy last year. It also ordered a five-year jail term for a suspect who it tried in absentia.

Reports from Cairo say prosecutors had accused the defendants of "attacks on diplomatic missions" and "sabotage."

A protester holds up an Egyptian national flag as fires burn outside the Israeli embassy last year

Last year's rioting in Cairo tested the Egypt-Israel peace accord

On September 9, 2011, hundreds of Egyptian demonstrators broke away from a pro-democracy protest on nearby Tahrir Square against Egypt's then-military-led government and broke into Israel's embassy by demolishing a concrete security wall. Some rioters also stoned the nearby Saudi embassy.

The storming of the Israeli embassy followed the killing in August 2011 of five Egyptian security guards by Israeli soldiers who had been pursuing Palestinian militants accused of killing Israelis along Israel's border with Egypt's Sinai region.

As Israel's ambassador and staff fled Cairo on the following day, Egyptian authorities said they would prosecute those who stormed the embassy.

Watch video 01:08

Egypt cracks down on Sinai violence

Egypt was under pressure from Israel and its ally the United States to honor the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace accord. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Egypt at the time that the storming of his country's embassy had inflicted a "severe injury to the fabric of peace" between the two countries.

In recent weeks, in the wake of the killing of 16 more Egyptian border guards at a Sinai outpost near Rafah on August 5, Egypt's new government under President Mohammed Mursi has sent extra military units into the Sinai to pursue Islamist militants. Rafah is a key access route - bypassing Israel - for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Rafah crossing reopened

On Saturday Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing. Security sources also said that Egyptian military engineers had blocked off 120 tunnels used by smugglers between Egypt and Gaza.

On Sunday, the news agency AFP said a man who tried to fire a rocket into Israel from the Egyptian side of the border was killed by an explosion. Witnesses cited by AFP said an Israeli drone was seen hovering nearby.

Egypt's military presence in Sinai's desert and mountain peninsula is restricted under the 1979 peace treaty. Security across Sinai deteriorated after the overthrow of Egypt's previous president Hosni Mubarak early last year, with Islamist militants attacking police outposts and a pipeline that exports gas to Israel.

ipj/ccp (dpae, AFP, Reuters, dapd)

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