BRUSSELS: World powers warned Saturday there is a "risk of escalation" after three days of fighting over Gaza that has already seen critical relations between Israel and Egypt plummet.
The European Union, Russia, the UN and the United States urged the region’s key players to hit the brakes, as rockets fired from Gaza wounded three people — ironically Palestinians in Israel — and the Jewish state’s air force responded with attacks on the coastal enclave.
After state television said Cairo was recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv, and Egypt called on Israel "to immediately stop its military operations against Gaza", Israeli diplomatic officials convened urgent discussions.
The EU, Russia, the UN and the United States displayed a growing edginess amid the spiraling tension.
"The Quartet remains concerned about the unsustainable situation in Gaza as well as the risk of escalation, and calls for restraint from all sides," read a statement by the group, tasked with resuscitating peace talks.
The EU, the Palestinians’ largest aid donor, is scheduled to send its foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to Israel and the Palestinian territories next weekend, August 27 and 28.
A diplomat told AFP she wants "to talk about the peace process before the UN General Assembly" meeting in New York on September 13 — when the Palestinians want to win statehood rights, and are expected to secure a certain plank of privileges.
The aim of Ashton’s trip was said to be an appeal for a "proportionate response" on both sides of the fighting, with the Quartet saying the rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel that began on Thursday represented "gruesome" and "cowardly acts of premeditated terrorism".
With the tensions rising over Egypt, although no official announcement followed immediately, the Quartet said it "also expresses its concern about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula".
After day-long negotiations over wording, according to the European diplomat, the group said it "encourages the Egyptian government to find a lasting resolution to the issue of Sinai security".
Relations between Egypt and Israel are at their lowest point in years after five Egyptian policemen were killed on Thursday in that area.
Israel says Palestinian militants from Gaza slipped into Israeli territory through Egypt, and that the Egyptian police died as Israeli troops pursued the attackers.
Amid conflicting military and police reports ever since, Egypt has asked Israel for an apology and an investigation into the deaths.
Egypt shares a border with Gaza as well as Israel, but has denied that Palestinian militants used its territory to stage attacks.
Egypt and Israel fought major wars before a 1979 treaty that positioned it as the key ally to Israel in the Middle East.
After a revolt that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February, the ruling military and caretaker cabinet have faced increased public calls to revise the landmark agreement.