CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza to halt their escalating conflict but played down hopes of a Cairo-mediated truce.
Egypt, which has a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, played a key role in mediating ceasefires in past wars between Hamas and the Jewish state.
But it has signaled a more hands-off approach in the latest conflict, which comes at a time of mounting tensions between the new government in Cairo and Hamas.
“There is no mediation, in the common sense of the word,” said Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty.
“Egyptian diplomatic efforts are aimed at immediately stopping Israeli aggression and ending all mutual violence. (Egyptian) contacts have not yet achieved a result.”
The death toll in Gaza after two days of Israeli airstrikes climbed to more than 40 on Wednesday, emergency services said.
Israel says its airstrikes are in retaliation for more than 100 rockets fired into the country by Hamas and other Islamist terrorists based in the coastal enclave.
The fighting is the deadliest between the two sworn enemies since an eight-day war in November 2012.
During that conflict, now deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi condemned “Israeli aggression” and sent his prime minister to Gaza in a show of support for the Palestinians.
Morsi brokered a truce seen as favorable to Hamas, which is linked to his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Since the military overthrew him in July 2013, Cairo has cracked down on smuggling tunnels to the Gaza Strip and accused Hamas of aiding the Brotherhood in militant attacks inside Egypt.
Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the former army chief who ousted Morsi and has been elected president in his place, has said Hamas alienated Egyptians by backing the Brotherhood.
The Egyptian presidency said late Tuesday that Sissi spoke by telephone with West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, his ally, to discuss the Gaza conflict but without elaborating.