updated 6/4/2008 6:38:18 PM ET 2008-06-04T22:38:18

Al-Qaida's top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri called on Muslims to launch holy war to break the siege of Gaza, in a new audio recording posted Wednesday on a militant Web site.

In the 11-minute recording, a voice purportedly by Osama bin Laden's deputy spoke in Arabic and said the "salvation of the Muslim nation is through the march of its sons on the path of jihad."

An accompanying banner said the message was issued to mark the 41st anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when over a period of six days from June 5, Israeli warplanes destroyed 400 aircraft belonging to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq — most of them sitting on airport tarmacs.

Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip; Syria lost the Golan Heights and Jordan lost the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Trying to minimize the shock and pain of the defeat, Arabs have long called the Six Day War the "naksa" — or "setback" in Arabic — but its impact remains a deep wound.

Al-Qaida deputy blames Arab regimes
In al-Zawahri's recording, entitled "In Memory of the Naksa... Break the Siege of Gaza," the al-Qaida deputy blamed Arab regimes for Arabs' 1967 debacle. Al-Zawahri said the Arab governments were "impotent and unable to protect the Muslim nation, its sanctuaries and its wealth."

"The sons of the nation should break the shackles of the treacherous regimes and move to wage jihad which has become a duty," al-Zawahri said, referring to holy war.

His message seemed especially directed at the militant Hamas Palestinian group, which last June seized power in the coastal strip of Gaza from the more moderate supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who were left in control of the West Bank as bloody inter-Palestinian clashes effectively split Palestinian territories in two.

Hamas' Gaza seizure and its regular lobbying of rockets into Israel, prompted Israel to impose a blockade on the strip. In January, hundreds of thousands of Gazans streamed into Egypt after Hamas blew up a border wall between Egypt and Gaza, seeking to restock on food and supplies. Egypt later resealed the border, which has since opened only occasionally to allow humanitarian aid through.

Egypt has also tried to broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel but the effort faltered after both Hamas and Israel failed to agree on a truce under which Hamas would stop firing missiles on Israeli villages and towns.

Lashes out at Egypt
In the recording, al-Zawahri also lashed out at Egyptian authorities, declaring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his troops "criminal traitors" for perpetuating Israel's siege of Gaza by sealing it's own boundary with the strip.

"You have the right to enter Egypt whenever you like, and destroy the treacherous siege," al-Zawahri told Gazans, appearing to be giving them a license for more violence. "Those who confront you should not blame anyone but themselves."

Just hours before al-Zawahri's message was released, Abbas called for a renewed dialogue with Hamas in a televised address to the Palestinians. His aide Nimer Hamad said the "tragic situation in Gaza" required Abbas' call at this time. Hamas promptly welcomed Abbas' offer.

Al-Zawahri often issues audio and video recordings, speaking on a wide range of topics. He has frequently discussed Palestinian issues.

The Web is a key tool of al-Qaida's central leadership to inspire and direct sympathizers at a time when some terror experts question how much control they have over Islamic militants.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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