Egypt has voiced its opposition against any Israeli military action against the Gaza Strip, warning a new war could seriously harm stability in the Middle East.
The warning came during a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The talks were aimed at reviving the botched direct talks between the Palestinian Authority and Tel Aviv.
The US-sponsored negotiations failed three weeks after they were launched in Washington due to Israel’s refusal to extend a partial freeze on its settlement construction in the West Bank, which expired on September 26.
Mubarak warned Netanyahu of the "danger of the latest Israeli threats and their repercussions on the stability and security of the region and the cause of Middle East peace," AFP quoted Egypt’s official MENA news agency as saying.
"Mubarak affirmed Egypt’s rejection of any new offensive on Gaza.”
Tensions have been high along the heavily guarded fence which separates the blockaded enclave from Israel.
In December, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Tel Aviv would have to "respond and respond with all our force" if the Palestinian resistance fighters did not stop firing their home-made rockets into Israel.
In late December 2008, Israel launched a devastating war against the Palestinian territory where more than 1,400 Palestinians — mostly civilians — were killed in three weeks of relentless Israeli land, sea and air strikes.
During their Thursday meeting, Mubarak "affirmed that it was necessary for Israel to revisit its stances and policies, and to take tangible steps to build trust" with the Palestinians.
Egypt has been mediating Palestinian reconciliation talks and also negotiations between the PA and Israel. Cairo has, however, been helping Tel Aviv with its years-long siege of the Gaza Strip which targeted Hamas after its landslide victory in the 2006 general elections in Palestine.
Egyptian officials have been keeping the Rafah crossing closed and preventing blockade-busting aid fleets from entering Gaza via the enclave’s only terminal not controlled by Israel. It has also been regularly filling Palestinian alternative underground tunnels under the Rafah border with gas and water.
The impoverished Gaza Strip is home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are dependent on international food aid handouts.