DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s second-in-command urged Palestinian fighters on Tuesday to abandon President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction and fight for the creation of an Islamic state that would defeat Israel.
“Brothers in jihad, steadfastness and martyrdom-seeking, freedom and a sovereign government will only be achieved if you liberate Palestine from the Jews and their agents, and only if you set up a government which rules by Islamic law,” Ayman al-Zawahri said in a statement carried by the SITE Institute.
“I call on those who fight under the leadership of Fatah to ask themselves: In the path of what are we fighting?”
“Fatah began as a secular national liberation movement fighting not for the establishment of an Islamic state but ... a secular state in Palestine and Islam has forbidden us from fighting unless it is for the supremacy of (God’s) word.”
The SITE Institute is a private U.S. organization that tracks militant activities and often publishes militants’ statements. It carried an English transcript of the Zawahri statement which it said appeared as a recording on the Internet.
The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified though Web sites used by radical Islamist groups have been promising a Zawahri message for more than 24 hours.
Fatah and Islamist group Hamas agreed at Saudi-sponsored talks in Mecca last week to form a unity government to end a year-old international economic embargo imposed on the Hamas-led Palestinian government because of its refusal to recognize Israel and accept existing interim peace agreements.
The deal promised an end to factional infighting that has claimed more than 90 lives since December but Israeli officials said the Jewish state was considering suspending contacts with Abbas if the unity government did not meet those conditions.
Zawahri did not mention the unity deal and his lengthy statement appears to have been made before the Mecca meeting.
The Egyptian cleric said Fatah had given away Palestinian land to Israel through the peace accords signed in the 1990s.
He branded Abbas and his aide Mohammed Dahlan, who had spearheaded Fatah’s power struggle with Hamas, as corrupt, but did not encourage fighters to join Hamas either.
“Because I hope that the nationalists and leftists will return to the truth, I call on all of them to ask themselves: who is today confronting America and Israel? Who spoiled their criminal plans in Afghanistan and Iraq? Isn’t it the mujahideen?” he said.
“And because I am eager for them to avoid losing out in this world and the next, I call on all of them to return to Islam ...”