CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call in a new videotape released Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."
In the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahiri, second in command to Usama bin Laden, said that Al Qaeda now views "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us."
The Egyptian-born physician said that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Palestinian militants would not be ended with "cease-fires or agreements."
"It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahiri said. "We will attack everywhere." Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims until they were driven from power at the turn of the 16th century.
He also said that Arab regimes were complicit in Israeli fighting against Hezbollah and the Palestinians. "My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit ... and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies ... make yourselves martyrs."
Al-Zawahiri wore a gray robe and white turban in the video. A picture of the burning World Trade Center was on the wall behind him along with photos of two other militants. One appeared to be a bearded Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks. The other was Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, a former top lieutenant of bin Laden who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in November 2001.
The Arab satellite station did not transmit the entire tape, using instead selected quotes interspersed with commentary from an anchor.
An Al-Jazeera official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters said the full tape was about eight mintues long. The satellite channel aired only about half the message. It would not say how it received the tape.
"The shells and rockets ripping apart Muslim bodies in Gaza and Lebanon are not only Israeli (weapons), but are supplied by all the countries of the crusader coalition. Therefore, every participant in the crime will pay the price," al-Zawahiri said.
"We cannot just watch these shells as they burn our brothers in Gaza and Lebanon and stand by idly, humiliated," he added.
The message was al-Zawahiri's 10th this year. Bin Laden has issued five messages in a particularly active year of messages from the top Al Qaeda leadership.
Al-Zawahiri last appeared in a video posted on an Islamic Web site on the one-year anniversary of the train bombings in London. In the July 7 tape, he said two of the four suicide bombers in London had spent time in an Al Qaeda training camp, preparing themselves for a suicide mission.
The two top Al Qaeda leaders also paid tribute in June to the slain leader of their Iraq network, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in separate recordings. Many of their messages this year have dealt with current events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
Another new audio or video message from bin Laden had also expected in the past week on the fighting in Gaza and Lebanon, according to IntelCenter, a U.S.-based independent group that provides counterterrorism information to the U.S. government and media. However, no messages have appeared on Islamic Web sites to announce the release.
Al Qaeda's media production wing, Al-Sahab, had announced the al-Zawahiri tape would be ready soon in a message earlier Thursday on an Islamic Web site.
Al-Zawahiri said Muslims everywhere must rise up to attack "crusaders and Zionists" and support jihad (holy war) "until American troops are chased from Afghanistan and Iraq, paralyzed and impotent ... having paid the price for aggression against Muslims and support for Israel."
Israel began an offensive on Gaza days after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier on June 25. It opened a second front in Lebanon after Hezbollah guerillas killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others on July 12.
Since fighting began between Israel and Hezbollah, at least 424 people have been killed in Lebanon, according to figures compiled from the Lebanese Health Ministry, the military and Hezbollah. Fifty-one Israelis have been killed, including 33 members of the military, according to Israeli authorities.