With tensions high and expectations low, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators kicked off their first substantive round of peace talks in nearly five years, huddling together at an undisclosed location Wednesday in search of an end to decades of conflict.

The meeting was cloaked in secrecy, an attempt by both sides to prevent leaks to the media and maintain trust. Officials would say only that the talks took place in Jerusalem, and there was no immediate comment from either side. The Israeli government released a brief video showing the chief negotiators shaking hands as the talks continued into the evening.

Ahead of the meeting, there already were signs of trouble. A new Israeli push to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish settlements and fresh fighting in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip underscored the tough road ahead.