Eight Palestinians killed as Abbas is sworn in

 

Mr Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as Palestinian president yesterday, but his call for a ceasefire was overshadowed as Israel killed eight Palestinians in Gaza and cut ties with him over a deadly militant attack.

"Our hand is extended towards an Israeli partner for making peace," Mr Abbas said at his inauguration in the battered West Bank compound where his predecessor Yasser Arafat is buried.

"We are seeking a mutual ceasefire to end this vicious circle," said Mr Abbas, restating his support for a US-backed peace "road map" that calls initially for militants to be reined in while Israel eases its occupation. But Mr Abbas faces a tough challenge from militants demanding an end to Israeli occupation and attacks before any truce, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has halted contact with him until he reins in gunmen and stops attacks against Israel.

Israeli soldiers killed six Palestinians, including three militants, in the central Gaza Strip. Troops also shot dead two others in the Rafah area of south Gaza. The army said it had been targeting militants in response to increased attacks against Israelis.

On Thursday, militants - some linked to Mr Abbas's Fatah group - killed six Israelis at a Gaza border post in the deadliest attack in a month. Mr Sharon, wary of Mr Abbas's policy of co-opting gunmen rather than cracking down on them, cut off ties with the new Palestinian leader after the attack.

Mr Abbas did not say in his speech how he planned to deal with militants.