Egypt working to halt escalation of Gaza violence

Cairo's envoy to Palestinian territories, calls Israeli attacks in Gaza "unjustifiable," rejects claims of terror threat from Sinai.

Palestinians look at the remains of exploded vehicle 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians look at the remains of exploded vehicle 390 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Egypt was making efforts Sunday to halt a further escalation of violence in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip which has seen more than 130 rockets fired towards the Jewish State and 17 Palestinians killed in Israel Air Force strikes since Friday.

"Egypt is in a race against time in order to halt hostilities as soon as possible to avoid further escalations," Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian territories Yasser Othman told the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency on Sunday.

Othman was quoted by Ma'an as saying that Cairo was in contact with both the Israelis and groups within Gaza, in hopes that they can "avoid undesirable developments."

The Egyptian official called Israel's attacks on Gaza "unjustifiable," rejecting claims that Popular Resistance Committees chief Zuhair Qaisi, killed by the IAF on Friday, had been targeted because he was planning a terror attack to be launched from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Sinai is "fully under control...This is an attempt by Israel to give justification for the offensive against Gaza," Othman stated.

A Hamas delegation headed by Hamas co-founder and leader Mahmoud Zahar headed to Cairo on Saturday, the Palestinian News Network reported, as tensions between Gaza and Israel reached the highest point this year.

Hamas is having trouble reining in terrorist groups Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance Committees, according to the report.

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Hamas has contacted Egypt the last few days hoping that the country - which often acts as an intermediary between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Islamist group - can pressure Israel in order to restore calm, according to the report.

Egypt's Foreign Minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, denounced IDF operations in the Gaza Strip, calling for the IDF to cease actions in Gaza immediately.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday said Hamas was in contact with its allies in order to muster enough pressure to stop Israeli raids on terrorists in the Gaza Strip, according to Al Resalah.

In a press release, the Hamas prime minister said the priority now was to stop Israeli aggression and protect Palestinian civilians.