CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on Muslims in a new audiotape released Monday to strike Jewish and American targets in revenge for Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.
The al-Zawahri tape came on the heels of a message from Usama bin Laden, who called for a holy war to liberate the Palestinian territories — a new push by the terror network's leadership to use widespread anger over the Gaza violence to whip up support.
The authenticity of the 4 minute, 44-second audiotape could not be independently confirmed. But the voice on it resembled that of al-Zawahri on previous audio and videotapes confirmed to be his. It was posted on an Islamic militant Web site where Al Qaeda usually releases its statements, and a banner advertising the tape had the logo of Al Qaeda's media arm, Al-Sahab.
"Muslims, today is your day. Strike the interests of the Jews, the Americans, and all those who participated in the attack on Muslims," al-Zawahri said. "Monitor the targets, collect money, prepare the equipment, plan with precision, and then — while relying on God — assault, seeking martyrdom and paradise."
Israel launched a weeklong offensive in Gaza that ended in early March, seeking to put down Palestinian militants firing rockets against nearby Israeli towns. The Israeli assault killed more than 120 people, including many civilians.
Al-Zawahri said attacks should not be limited to places in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"Today there is no room for he who says that we should only fight the Jews in Palestine," he said. "Let us strike their interests everywhere, just like they gathered against us from everywhere."
"Let them know that they will get blood for every dollar they spend in the killing of the Muslims, and for every bullet they fire at us, a volcano will turn back on them," he said, referring to American military aid and other ties to Israel. "They cannot expect to support Israel, then live in peace while the Jews are killing our fugitive and besieged people."
AL-Zawahri referred to the publishing of a cartoon seen as insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad in Danish papers. The cartoons, which were first printed in 2006 and reprinted last month, angered many Muslims.
"They will never be able to insult and make a mockery out of our Prophet, peace and prayers of Allah upon him," al-Zawahri said.
Al-Zawahri accused Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of colluding with Israel in the siege of Gaza. Egypt has sealed its border with the Gaza Strip since the Palestinian militant group Hamas took over the territory last year.
He said Mubarak "repeats the same dirty role" as the Lebanese Phalangists — a Christian militia that was allied with Israel in Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and was blamed in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Beirut camps of Sabra and Shatila. "The roles are the same, even if the faces change — the same betrayal even if the names have changed," said al-Zawahri.