Qaeda's Zawahri urges more Gaza rocket attacks

DUBAI Thu Jun 5, 2008 6:19am IST

A frame grab of a video released on September 2, 2006 shows Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri speaking. REUTERS/Reuters TV/Files

A frame grab of a video released on September 2, 2006 shows Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri speaking.

Credit: Reuters/Reuters TV/Files

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri on Wednesday urged Palestinians to step up suicide and rocket attacks, saying in an Internet recording they were the only way to end Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"Step up your martyrdom-seeking operations, and increase your missiles and ambushes, as there is no solution but this," the speaker, who sounded like earlier recordings of Zawahri, urged Palestinians in the audio message.

Zawahri also criticised Egypt for not opening its border to the Palestinians, branding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a "traitor."

"The brother from Gaza is refused entry (by Egypt), while an Israeli tourist is allowed to enter without a visa," he said, calling on Egyptians is the border areas to support the Palestinians' efforts to break the blockade.

Israel, which withdrew settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, sees militant activity there, including rocket attacks on its territory, as a threat. It has shut down traffic across its borders, causing severe economic hardship in the overcrowded area ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Its militants blasted open the Rafah border crossing to Egypt for several days early in the year until Egyptian authorities moved in troops in February and closed it again.

The 11-minute message, issued on Islamist websites, marked the June 1967 six-day Arab-Israeli war, which Zawahri said "unveiled that (Arab) regimes had no principles ... except holding on to their seats (of power)."

Last month, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to help break the blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and fight Arab governments that deal with the Jewish state.

Al Qaeda leaders have placed growing emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a central issue for many Arabs and Muslims -- in an apparent effort to widen their support.

Despite calls by al Qaeda supporters for the militant network to establish a presence in Palestinian areas, U.S. intelligence officials say they see no evidence it has done so. Analysts say it faces competition, in particular in Gaza, from the well-established Hamas.

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