After the November pause collapsed, Hamas and Israel effectively stopped communicating through their intermediaries. But the ice was broken by a more limited deal announced on Jan. 16 to allow medicine to be delivered to Israeli hostages in return for more medicine and aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza. That became what some called a proof of concept.
From that point, both Israel and Hamas provided proposals on paper for a wider agreement and American intermediaries knitted them together into a single draft agreement. Mr. Biden spoke by phone with Mr. Netanyahu on Jan. 19, their first talk in nearly a month, and the two discussed how to proceed with the hostages.
Two days later, the president sent Mr. McGurk to the region, where he met with Gen. Abbas Kamel, the chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service and the nation’s second most powerful official, as well as Sheikh Mohammed of Qatar. The talks were complicated when Israeli media played a tape apparently of Mr. Netanyahu privately calling Qatar’s role as mediator “problematic” because of its relationship to Hamas, prompting Qatar to call the remarks “irresponsible and destructive.”
Mr. McGurk returned to Washington on Friday and met with Mr. Biden in the Oval Office along with Mr. Burns and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who has also been traveling in the region. With his advisers next to him, Mr. Biden then separately called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Sheikh Mohammed.
“They affirmed that all efforts must now be made to conclude a deal that would result in the release of all hostages together with a prolonged humanitarian pause in the fighting,” the White House said in its summary of the call with Mr. Sisi.