Egypt on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza to halt their escalating conflict but played down hopes of a Cairo-mediated truce.
Egypt, which has a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, played a key role in mediating ceasefires in past wars between Hamas and the Jewish state.
But it has signalled a more hands-off approach in the latest conflict, which comes at a time of mounting tensions between the new government in Cairo and Hamas.
"There is no mediation, in the common sense of the word," said Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty.
"Egyptian diplomatic efforts are aimed at immediately stopping Israeli aggression and ending all mutual violence. (Egyptian) contacts have not yet achieved a result."
A senior Hamas official pledged that militants would not "surrender" in the face of the latest air strikes on Wednesday.
"There are no ceasefire talks, in the conventional sense. There are ongoing contacts. The Israelis are not interested in mediation, they are looking for surrender," said Osama Hamdan, who is based in Beirut.
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"The situation will clear up in the coming hours. We will respond to this escalation, and Israel might be convinced that the escalation does not help them."
The death toll in Gaza after two days of Israeli air strikes climbed to more than 40 on Wednesday, emergency services said.
Israel says its air strikes are in retaliation for more than 100 rockets fired into the country by Hamas and other Islamist militants based in the coastal enclave.
The fighting is the deadliest between the two sworn enemies since an eight-day war in November 2012.
During that conflict, now deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi condemned "Israeli aggression" and sent his prime minister to Gaza in a show of support for the Palestinians.
Morsi brokered a truce seen as favourable to Hamas, which is linked to his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Since the military overthrew him in July 2013, Cairo has cracked down on smuggling tunnels to the Gaza Strip and accused Hamas of aiding the Brotherhood in militant attacks inside Egypt.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Morsi and has been elected president in his place, has said Hamas alienated Egyptians by backing the Brotherhood.
The Egyptian presidency said late Tuesday that Sisi spoke by telephone with West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, his ally, to discuss the Gaza conflict but without elaborating.