CAIRO: Egypt has been in close contact with Israel and Hamas to try to prevent further escalation in fighting between them and ensure the protection of Israelis taken hostage by Palestinian militants, two Egyptian security sources said on Monday.
Egypt had urged Israel to exercise restraint and Hamas to hold its captives in good condition to keep open the possibility of de-escalation soon, although successive Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip made mediation difficult, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Palestinian militants took dozens of hostages in an attack launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, including soldiers and civilians, children and the elderly.
A second Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad, said it was holding more than 30 of the captives.
Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and artillery have been pounding the Gaza Strip as Israel battled to clear out Palestinian fighters who crossed from Gaza.
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula shares a border with the Gaza Strip and with Israel, and Cairo has acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian groups in previous conflicts.
Some 7,000 Israeli tourists have returned from Sinai to Israel since the fighting erupted, the Egyptian security sources said. The Red Crescent has also delivered some medical aid to Gaza from Sinai through the Rafah crossing, they added.
On Sunday, two Israeli tourists and an Egyptian guide were shot dead at an archaeological site in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria.
The Egyptian policeman accused of carrying out the killing has been referred to a military court, one of the security sources said.
EgyptAir flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv have been suspended indefinitely, while flights from South Sinai’s Sharm el-Shiekh to Tel Aviv were continuing to operate on Monday, allowing Israeli tourists to return home, Egyptian airport sources said.