Egypt has stepped up 'mediation' to ensure tensions in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, following a wave of deadly Israeli raids on Palestinian towns, don't spread to the Gaza Strip ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said.
This week Cairo hosted leaders from Gaza's ruling Hamas group and from the smaller, allied Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group, according to the officials. Talks with Israeli representatives were held earlier, they said.
Israeli violence surged in the West Bank last year as Israel intensified raids on homes and refugee camps - particularly in Jenin, which killed scores of Palestinians in what was described as one of the deadliest years in recent Palestinian history.
Two Egyptian officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Cairo believed the situation could further spiral out of control, especially given the fact that Israeli settlers often provoke Palestinians by entering and storming holy sites such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which begins in late March.
Egypt wanted the United States to appeal to Israel to restrain its escalation of violence, the officials said.
Cairo, for its part, was appealing to the PIJ, which does not favour direct contact with Israel.
"More than ever, the Egyptians are worried of a possible new armed confrontation in 2023 because they realise it would be hard to restrain actions by some ministers of the new extremist government in Israel," a Palestinian official told Reuters.
"Egypt understands that if things blow up in the West Bank it will ignite an explosion in Gaza too," the Palestinian official said.
Israeli officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel often strikes the besieged Gaza Strip, causing devastation and killing Palestinians. Israel, however, insists it targets Hamas and the PIJ but the vast majority of victims have been civilians.
Israel has also imposed a years-long blockade on the enclave, causing high rates of poverty, unemployment and a shortage of medical supplies and equipment, among others, since 2007.
PIJ spokesman Daoud Shehab accused Israel of trying to change the "status quo" in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, a reference to the new government's plan to expand Jewish settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
Shehab said the group told Egypt that "no one can restrain" themselves if "Israeli provocations. . . continue during Ramadan".