For Years, Two Men Shuttled Messages Between Israel and Hamas. No Longer.

For 17 years, on and off, two men maintained a secret line of communication between Israel and Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that opposes Israel’s existence.

Starting in 2006, Gershon Baskin, an Israeli peace activist based in Jerusalem, and Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, nurtured an informal back channel between officials in Jerusalem and in Gaza, even as each side refused to engage with the other directly.

The men’s relationship survived countless rounds of violence between Israel and Hamas, and helped end several of them.

Even after Oct. 7, when Hamas and its allies raided Israel, killed an estimated 1,200 people and kidnapped roughly 240 others, according to Israeli officials, Mr. Baskin and Mr. Hamad kept in contact, including discussing a deal to release some hostages. As Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas-controlled Gaza, killing more than 10,000 Gazans according to Gaza’s health authorities, their unlikely relationship endured.

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