Egyptian intelligence officials say a delegation met with Hamas officials and then crossed into Israel by land to broker a ceasefire.

Smoke rises after Israeli fighter jets conducted air strikes in Gaza City, Gaza on May 13, 2021.
Smoke rises after Israeli fighter jets conducted air strikes in Gaza City, Gaza on May 13, 2021. (AA)

An Egyptian delegation is in Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli officials as part of efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the escalating conflict with Gaza, Egyptian intelligence officials have said.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to brief the media. 

The same delegation met with Hamas officials in Gaza first, they said, and crossed into Israel by land. 

Egypt has played a mediating role in the past between the sides.

Late on Wednesday, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi. 

He said it was important for both sides to avoid escalation and resorting to military means, according to a readout of the call.

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Even as word came of the mediators’ presence, Gaza groups fired a volley of some 100 rockets nearly simultaneously.

There was no immediate reports of damage or casualties — but the barrage appeared aimed at demonstrating that Hamas’ arsenal was still full even after three nights of air strikes and the killing on Wednesday of several Hamas leaders involved in the rocket programme.

Gaza has no formal military and most of its rockets are repurposed or are homemade weapons.  

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US blocks Security Council meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited batteries of the Iron Dome missile defence system, which the military says has intercepted 90 percent of the 1,200 rockets that have reached Israel from Gaza so far.

The previous evening, Israeli TV reported Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet authorised a widening of the offensive and Israel is expected to launch a ground offensive.

Meanwhile, United States blocked an urgent UN Security Council meeting originally set for Friday on the new flare-up between Israel and the Palestine, diplomats said.

"There will be no SC meeting tomorrow," said a spokesman for the UN delegation of China, which currently presides over the council.

"The United States did not agree with a videoconference tomorrow," one diplomat said.

Another diplomat said the US wants the meeting put off until Tuesday, which would undermine the sense that it is of an urgent nature.

Meetings like this via videoconference require the support of all 15 members of the council.

In its statements this week on the Mideast crisis, the US has said Israel has the right to defend itself from rocket attacks launched from Gaza, but it also called for de-escalation of the conflict.

READ MORE: Israel kills two in West Bank as tension rises between Jews, Palestinians 

The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where heavy-handed Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers ignited protests and attacks by police.

Still unclear is how the fighting in Gaza will affect Netanyahu’s political future. 

He failed to form a government coalition after inconclusive parliamentary elections in March, and now his political rivals have three weeks to try to form one.

They have courted a small Arab party, but the fighting could hamper those efforts.

READ MORE: No phrase distorts reality more than 'Israel's right to self-defence'

Source: TRTWorld and agencies