Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, in an internet audio message, urged Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to escalate attacks on Israel over its crippling siege of the territory.
Osama bin Laden’s Egypt-born right-hand man also urged his countrymen to rise up to break the blockade and lambasted Arab governments, according to the message attributed to Zawahiri and posted on an Islamist website on Wednesday.
”Do not give up … increase your martyrdom attacks, the number of rockets you launch and your ambushes. There is no other solution,” Zawahiri said in the message marking the anniversary of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Gaza has been under a punishing Israeli blockade since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power in the impoverished Palestinian territory last June, in a move Israel says is aimed at halting rocket attacks.
”To those who try to make you despair, tell them … America is being defeated by our brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why should we despair,” said Zawahiri, who has a $25-million bounty on his head.
”This naqsa [setback] has shown that the salvation of this Muslim nation would come through the jihad [holy war] of its people … The governments have already betrayed” their people, he said.
The term ”naqsa” is used by Arabs to refer to the defeat of the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967, which led to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai, which was returned to Egypt after signing the Camp David peace accords in 1978.
Zawahiri slammed the Egyptian authorities for blocking the Rafah crossing point, the only gateway to Gaza that bypasses Israel, accusing the government of aiding Israel by besieging the Palestinians.
”I say to my brothers in Gaza, those who are putting you under siege are traitors, starting from the soldier in the central security forces who is guarding the treason fence to [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak,” he said.
”It is your right to enter Egypt whenever you wish, and to destroy treason fences whenever you want,” he said.
In January, Gaza militants blew open large sections of the border barricades, sending hundreds of thousands of Palestinians pouring into Sinai to stock up on basic goods before it was resealed a few days later.
”I say to my Muslim brothers in Sinai, help your brothers in Gaza and take part in their fight. If they start bringing down the fence of treason, give them a hand,” Zawahiri said.
”This shameful fence deprives our people in Gaza from food and medicine, while it opens welcoming 50 000 Israeli tourists over Passover to practise immoralities in Sinai.”
In his last message posted on April 22, Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant blasted Hamas over its reported readiness to consider a peace deal with Israel. — AFP