Zawahiri calls on Muslims to attack Israeli, Western targets

Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called on Muslims to attack Israeli and Western targets in retaliation for the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, in an audio statement released online on Tuesday.


AFP - Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Muslims to attack Israeli and Western targets in response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in a message released online Tuesday.

"O Muslims everywhere: fight the Zionist crusader campaign. Strike its interests everywhere you can reach them," Zawahiri said in an audio statement made available by SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based monitoring company.

Zawahiri said the Israeli offensive, which has killed 660 Palestinians since it was launched on December 27 to halt rocket attacks launched from Gaza on southern Israel, was part of a Western campaign targeting Islam and Muslims.

He also accused US president-elect Barack Obama of being complicit in the attacks. "What we face today ... is a link in the chain of the Zionist crusade against Islam and Muslims," he said.

"These raids are Obama's gift to you (Palestinians) before he takes office.

"This is Obama whom the American machine of lies tried to portray to the world as the rescuer who will change the policy of America. He kills your brothers and sisters in Gaza mercilessly and without affection," Zawahiri said.

Obama has been criticized for not speaking out forcefully against the Israeli offensive, but vowed Tuesday he would have plenty to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once he takes office on January 20.

And he added Tuesday that the "loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me."

Zawahiri, who is Egyptian, also called on Muslims in Egypt, the most populous Arab country, to "organize and participate in a campaign of strikes, demonstrations and protests that do not stop until the siege on our brothers in Gaza is lifted."

He called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a "criminal and traitor."

Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, is a long-time broker of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

Mubarak said he proposed an immediate ceasefire that would allow aid to reach the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian-Israeli talks.

The Zawahiri message, produced by Al-Qaeda's media arm, As-Sahab, was broadcast over a video entitled "Gaza massacre and siege of the traitors" featuring a still photograph of the Qaeda deputy and a Palestinian child receiving emergency treatment after apparently being hit.

Gaza medics said that of the 660 Palestinians killed so far in the offensive, 215 were children and 98 were women.

Seven Israeli soldiers have been killed during Operation Cast Lead, while three civilians were killed in Israel by rockets fired by Gaza militants, according to the Israeli army.

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