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Abbas sworn in as seven Palestinians die

Deadly clashes in Gaza follow mortar attack into Israel


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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- On the day newly sworn-in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for peace, seven Palestinians were killed and three Israelis wounded in renewed violence, officials said.

Palestinian officials reported the deaths of five, including one police officer, in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. One person was critically wounded, the officials said.

Israeli military officials said soldiers shot at armed militants who approached troops.

In the southern town of Rafah, two Palestinians were killed and six wounded at an Israeli army outpost along the border with Egypt, Palestinian security officials said.

The group thought the outpost -- along the volatile Philadelphi route that stretches between Gaza and Egypt -- was abandoned, Palestinian officials said.

Israel has launched operations in Gaza aimed at stopping Palestinian mortar attacks against Israeli civilians.

Early Saturday, two Israeli children were wounded in mortar attacks on the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in central Gaza, Israeli officials said.

A Qassam rocket attack on Sderot, an Israeli town east of Gaza, left one person in critical condition, Israeli officials said late Saturday.

Abbas calls for partnership

In his acceptance speech, Abbas called for an end to the Israeli occupation.

"Our hands are extended to our Israeli partners, but partnership is not by words alone, but by deeds," he said.

He dedicated his victory to his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat, whom he credited with planting "the first seed of this democratic experience" among Palestinians.

Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, won the election to replace Arafat with more than 62 percent of the vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon congratulated Abbas shortly after the election and said he would meet with him in the coming weeks.

The Israeli leader, however, suspended contact with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority on Friday after six Israeli civilians were killed in an attack carried out by three Palestinian militant groups.

Sharon severed contact "until real steps are taken against terrorist acts," said one senior official.

Saturday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei denounced the move.

"This is a wrong decision and reflects that Israel is trying to find any excuse to disrupt any serious effort that leads to reviving the peace process and to achieve calm," Qorei said, according to a translation for the Reuters news agency.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking Saturday with reporters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, called the attack "a real blow to the peace process.

"They just had brilliant elections, elected Abu Mazen and everyone was looking forward to the resumption and re-energization of the peace process. So what has happened is a real setback."

"Bloodshed and violence is not going to get us anywhere," Annan said, encouraging Palestinians to work with the new leadership. "And I support [Abbas] in his engagements with the Israeli government and with the international community to find a solution to the crisis. This is an opportunity for them to realize their dream, the aspiration for a Palestinian state."

Election commission resignations

Nearly one-third of the members of the Palestinian Central Election Commission resigned Saturday, saying they were intimidated into changing voting procedures during the election a week ago.

On election day -- which some international observers called the first truly democratic Arab elections -- the commission announced that polling hours would be extended by two hours and voters would be allowed to cast ballots at any polling station. Previously announced regulations had said voters had to go to the sites where they were registered.

Forty-six of the 150 members stepped down: 40 from Gaza and six from the West Bank.

Those who resigned said they were concerned the changes would set a precedent that could hurt elections for the Palestinian legislature set for July 17, commission member Baha'a Bakri told CNN.

News reports said they complained they were pressured by Palestinian officials, including some with the campaign of Abbas. But they said Abbas would have won even without the changes, the reports said.

CNN's Yoav Appel contributed to this report.


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