Egypt is working night and day to stop the deterioration of the situation in Gaza, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on Monday, citing a statement by a senior Cairo official.“Egypt is currently making intensive contacts at the highest levels with both Israel and the Palestinian factions to contain the escalating tension in the Gaza Strip in order to prevent deterioration of the situation,” the statement reportedly read. The UK-based paper assessed that the statement was all the more significant in light of recent reports that Israel was planning a massive ground operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a possibility Palestinian sources have ruled out. Israel, they were quoted as saying, had learned its lesson from Operation Cast Lead – which they termed “a failure despite its bloodshed and intensity” – and would now limit its attacks on the Strip to air strikes. The reports of a planned IDF retaliation surfaced following a month of increased tensions between the two sides, augmented by repeated rocket attacks against the Negev and an ambush in which two IDF soldiers were killed.The paper quoted the Egyptian official as saying that the current circumstances in both Gaza and the Israeli leadership evoke the circumstances that led to last winter’s IDF controversial offensive in Gaza.“The situation over the past two days has raised concerns in Egyptconcerning permanent stability in the Palestinian territories,” theofficial was quoted as saying. “This led the Egyptian side to intensifyits contacts and efforts vis-à-vis the Palestinian and Israeli sides.” Egypt is a major player in efforts to renew peace negotiations betweenIsrael and the Palestinians, as well as in efforts to promotereconciliation between the Palestinians themselves. Meanwhile on Sunday, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that various Palestinianfactions in the Gaza Strip had met on the previous night to discussprospects for unity between them and also for a possible truce withIsrael.