American officials said Israel was now proposing a 60-day pause in the fighting in exchange for a phased release of hostages. That proposal, the American officials said, could provide a basis for renewed talks. News of Mr. Burns’s travel was earlier reported by The Washington Post.
The Biden administration is anxious to cut a deal that will halt the fighting for longer than the one-week pause that began in November and provide some breathing room to figure out what comes next.
The talks were set to begin amid tensions between Israel and Qatar, which this week accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of hurting efforts to release the hostages after a leaked recording appeared to catch him criticizing the country.
In a recording that aired on Israeli television on Tuesday, a voice that appears to be Mr. Netanyahu’s calls Qatar’s role as a mediator “problematic” because of its relationship with Hamas and criticizes the United States for extending its military presence in Qatar.
“These remarks if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising,” a Qatari foreign ministry spokesman, Majed Al Ansari, said in a statement on social media on Wednesday.
He said that if the remarks were confirmed, Mr. Netanyahu would be “obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages.”
Mr. Netanyahu did not publicly respond to the Qatari comments.
The Israeli prime minister said on Sunday that he would not accept a deal for a permanent cease-fire that left Hamas in control of Gaza. He has been under pressure from the right wing of his government to take more aggressive military action in Gaza, even as a debate rises about the feasibility of both eradicating Hamas and negotiating the release of the hostages.
About 240 people were taken hostage during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed an estimated 1,200 people. Israel has responded with a furious onslaught in Gaza in a war that has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry. More than 100 people are still being held captive in Gaza, according to the Israelis.
On Thursday, families of some of the hostages tried to block aid from entering Gaza at a border crossing, as Gazans waiting for aid in the enclave were killed in a strike, according to local health officials. Photos from the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza showed a small group of demonstrators holding signs with the faces of hostages.