Mahmoud Abbas has been officially sworn in as the new Palestinian Prime Minister along with his Cabinet. The event is to trigger the release by Washington of a new blueprint for peace in the region later Wednesday. But the event was also marred by more violence - a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv early Wednesday that left four people dead and dozens injured.
The swearing-in ceremony took place in the offices of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah. The event took place just a day after Mahmoud Abbas and his 24-member Cabinet were officially endorsed by the Palestinian legislature in a vote of 51 to 18, with three abstentions.
Just hours after the parliamentary vote, violence surged once again when a young Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a popular cafe in Tel Aviv. The militant group Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to the Fatah faction of Mr. Arafat and Mr. Abbas, claimed joint responsibility for the attack.
It seemed a clear warning to Mr. Abbas against trying to rein in the militants and underscored the formidable task the new prime minister faces.
Mr. Abbas has denounced violence and vowed to get rid of illegal weapons. He's indicated his government will crack down on militants. Some groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have said they would not disarm and would continue their attacks against Israel.
The installation of the new Palestinian government now triggers the release of the American-backed "road map to peace." The plan, drawn up the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, outlines a step-by-step approach to end the violence, return to the negotiating table and establish an independent Palestinian state by 2005.
The United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Terje Larson, told journalists in Ramallah the road map would be presented to Mr. Abbas later Wednesday. It's expected the plan will also be presented to the Israeli leadership at about the same time.