Zawahiri urges Muslims to back Hamas

Al Qaeda’s number two urged all Muslims in a tape posted on Monday to support the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in its battles with President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel, which he said was planning to invade Gaza.“We must today support the mujahedeen of Palestine, including the mujahedeen of Hamas, despite all the mistakes of their government,” said the audiotape, purporting to be from Egyptian cleric Ayman Al Zawahiri.

“Now that the situation in Gaza is under your control, you must remember two things: first that power is not an end in itself but a means of achieving God’s way on earth … second… that the theatre is being prepared now for the invasion of Gaza, so unite with your mujahedeen brothers in Palestine.” It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape, which was posted on a website used by Al Qaeda-linked groups. The tape was undated but appeared to refer to recent developments in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas routed the secular Fateh forces in Gaza over a week ago, prompting Abbas to sack the Hamas-led government and appoint a new Cabinet in the West Bank with the blessing of the United States, European Union and some Arab countries.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but Hamas’ takeover and the appointment of Ehud Barak as defence minister have stoked speculation that it might respond more robustly to rocket attacks from Gaza, perhaps with a ground assault.

Zawahiri accused secular Arab leaders and parties, including Fateh, of betraying Muslims in favour of the United States.

He advised Hamas, which sees itself as a national liberation movement distinct from Al Qaeda, to join the international jihad against the United States, Israel’s main backer.

He also criticised Hamas for taking part in elections last year and for signing up to a Saudi-brokered agreement to form a unity government with Fateh in February, saying the deal had led only to the shedding of more Palestinian blood.

“Despite all this, we say we are with you in your confrontation with Israel and its secular collaborators,” he said, adding that it was a religious duty for Muslims to back Hamas by all possible means.

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