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Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel and condemned Arab governments for preventing a holy war in a new message Wednesday aimed at harnessing anger in the Mideast over Israel's Gaza offensive.
Bin Laden spoke in an audiotape posted on Islamic militant Web sites where al-Qaida usually issues its messages - his first tape since May and his first since Israel launched its offensive in Gaza against Hamas nearly three weeks ago.
"There is only one strong way to bring the return of al-Aqsa and Palestine, and that is jihad in the path of God," bin Laden said in the 22-minute audiotape, referring to the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. "The duty is to urge people to jihad and to enlist the youth into jihad brigades."
"Muslim nation, you are capable of defeating the Zionist entity with your popular capabilities and your great hidden strength _ without the support of (Arab) leaders and despite the the fact that most of (the leaders) stand in the barracks of the Crusader-Zionist alliance," bin Laden said.
The authenticity of the tape could not be independently confirmed, but the voice resembled that of bin Laden in previous messages.
The tape, entitled "Call for jihad to stop the aggression on Gaza," was played over a still picture of bin Laden and the al-Aqsa Mosque, but without the English subtitles and flashy production effects that usually accompany such messages.
That suggested it had been hastily put together and issued to best exploit anger in the region over the Gaza offensive.
Bin Laden accused Arab leaders of "avoiding their responsibility" to liberate Palestine and told them, "If you are not convinced to fight, then open the way to those who are convinced."
Bin Laden and his lieutenants frequently use the Palestinian issue to try to rally support for al-Qaida and often call for holy war to free Jerusalem. But there has been little sign that the terror group has carried out attacks in Israel.