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Palestinian President Takes Power Amid Fresh Conflict With Israel

  • Benjamin Sand

The new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in Saturday in Ramallah. But he faces an immediate crisis after Israel cut all ties with the Palestinian Authority following a deadly attack in Gaza Thursday night.

Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as Palestinian president Saturday afternoon in a room full of cheering supporters.

Mr. Abbas now stands alone atop the Palestinian Authority, replacing Yasser Arafat, who, for nearly 40 years, led the Palestinian movement for an independent state.

But Mr. Abbas takes power amid a fresh crisis with Israel, which Friday cut all ties with the Palestinian authority and sealed the Gaza strip.

The order came a day after Palestinian gunmen stormed an Israeli checkpoint in central Gaza, killing six civilians and wounding five others.

Israel insists the break in relations will remain until Mr. Abbas cracks down on Palestinian militants and curbs terrorist attacks.

In his inaugural address Mr. Abbas called for a mutual cease-fire and a return to negotiations.

Mr. Abbas said he is extending his hand in peace to Israel and denounced the violence which plagues Arab-Israeli relations.

But the new president notably did not respond to Israel's demands that he directly confront Palestinian militants.

The new president has previously said he prefers dialogue and diplomacy and will not use force against the militants.

Thursday's attack in Gaza and the subsequent Israeli response are a major setback for Mr. Abbas, who expected to take office with full Israeli support.

Mr. Abbas is under tremendous pressure from Israel and from his own constituents to resume peace talks and restore some sense of normalcy to the Palestinian community.

His allies say the Israeli action this week only makes it harder for Mr. Abbas to affect any sort of meaningful change.

But Israeli officials insist Mr. Abbas has avoided challenging the Palestinian militants and must be pressured to change course.

Meanwhile Israel launched two separate attacks of its own on alleged militants in Gaza Saturday. Six Palestinians were reportedly killed. Local hospitals say at least four children were also injured during the attacks.