Al Qaeda leaders have renewed calls for attacks on Israel, Jews and American targets in response to Israel's military action in Gaza to staunch the barrage of Hamas rockets hurled at Israeli towns and cities.
For example, Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called for attacks against Israel and the West in an audio message released on February 3, 2009. In his message, titled "The Sacrifices of Gaza and Plotting Against It," Zawahiri urged Muslims to "head to the battlefields" and fight the enemies of Islam, including Israel, but also "the entire Zionist-Crusader alliance, and leading it is the evil master America."
Zawahiri released a similar audio message in January 2009 urging Muslims to "strike the interests of the enemies of Islam - namely, the Christians and the Jews - wherever and by whatever means you can." Zawahiri expressed Al Qaeda's solidarity with Palestinians: "My Muslim brothers and mujahideen in Gaza and all over Palestine, with the help of Allah we are with you in the battle, we will direct our strikes against the crusader Jewish coalition wherever we can."
Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi called for attacks in the West in retaliation for what he called the Israeli "annihilation campaign" in Gaza, in a video posted on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants on January 22, 2009. In the video, titled "Palestine... Now the Fighting is Fierce," Libi blamed Britain for creating the state of Israel, claiming that they are responsible for any "child who dies in Palestine." He also urged Muslims to strike America so that they "taste what our brothers and weak folks in Palestine have been tasting."
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called for holy war against Israel in an audio message posted on Web sites commonly used by Islamic militants on January 14, 2009. In the message, which is titled "A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression on Gaza," bin Laden urged the "Muslim nation" to defeat the "Zionist entity" and assured the Palestinians that Al Qaeda's "fate is tied to yours in fighting the crusader-Zionist coalition, in fighting until victory or martyrdom." He also stated that "the duty is to urge people to jihad and to enlist the youth into jihad brigades."
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group named for its location in North Africa, has issued explicit calls for Muslims to attack Jews "wherever they are found" as well. The leader of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel, stated that "chasing Jews away and closing down their embassy, is a debt on our shoulders and we have to give our all to pay it back or die." He also announced that their next target is the Israeli Embassy in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, which was attacked by AQIM in February 2008, wounding three bystanders.
These messages are the latest in a series of messages by Al Qaeda focused on Israel and Jews. In May 2008, bin Laden called for attacks on Israel, Jews and American targets in an audio statement entitled, "The Causes of Conflict on the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israeli Occupation." In the message, released by Al Qaeda's media wing Al Sahab, bin Laden warned, "We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies...and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on earth." Bin Laden also said, "The Palestinian cause is the major issue" and urged Muslims to understand that "Jihad [holy war] is a duty to free Palestine."
In April 2008, Zawahiri threatened Israel and Jewish interests in an audio message released by Al Sahab. Zawahiri endorsed "every operation against Jewish interests" and promised to "strive as much as we can to deal blows to the Jews inside Israel and outside it, with Allah's help and guidance." Zawahiri also said, "I expect the Jihadi influence to spread after the Americans' exit from Iraq, and to move towards Jerusalem."
"Today there is no room for he who says that we should only fight the Jews in Palestine," Zawahiri added. "Let us strike their interests everywhere, just like they gathered against us from everywhere." Zawahiri's message followed a March 2008 audio message from Osama bin Laden, who focused his speech on "the siege on Gaza and the way to free it and the rest of Palestine from the hands of the Zionist enemy." Bin Laden called on Palestinians to reject "negotiations and dialogue" and use "iron and fire" against Israel, as that alone "is the way to recover it because nothing cuts iron except iron."
"Palestine will return to us by the permission of Allah if we wake from our ignorance and holdfast to our religion and sacrifice for it our money and lives," bin Laden said.
In December 2007, bin Laden released a video message, in which he similarly threatened attacks against Israel to "liberate Palestine." Bin Laden said, "We will not recognize a state for the Jews, not even one inch of the land of Palestine…"
In January 2008, Adam Gadahn, an American Muslim convert who joined Al Qaeda in the late 1990s, issued a video statement saying, "The pivot on which the war today between the Muslims and their enemies revolve [is] Muslim Palestine, which will remain Muslim in spite of Bush and his puppets, in spite of racist tendencies of the Jewish occupiers and in spite of conspiracies like the Mecca Accord and the Annapolis Conference."
An essay posted on a militant Web site in January 2008 by an alleged Al Qaeda author "AsadAl-Jiahd2," entitled "The Timing of the Entrance of al-Qaeda Organization in the Palestinian Territories," explained that Al Qaeda has been preparing to attack Israel since the beginning of 2007 -- and they are continuing to get into position until 2009, when they will then begin to attack Israel. The essay also states that "the attacks against the Jews will not be limited to occupied Palestine but will continue to reach all the areas in which Jews have a strong influence."
In addition, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, purported leader of the Islamic State of Iraq which is composed of Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups, issued an audio statement in February 2008 calling for attacks on Israel. The statement proposed to use Iraq as a "launching pad" for missile attacks against Israel.
These threats against Israel and Jews by Al Qaeda come at a time when Hezbollah has also threatened to attack Israeli targets abroad.
While Al Qaeda has targeted Israel and Jews for several years, its leadership's renewed focus on the Palestinian cause in its public pronouncements should serve as an alert to the international community and Jewish interests around the world, and may suggest a wider attempt by Al Qaeda to destabilize the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the entire Middle East.