Al-Zawahri warns that al-Qa'ida will not stand idly by

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The No. 2 leader of al-Qa'ida today warned that the terrorist group would not stand idly by while "these (Israeli) shells burn our brothers" in Lebanon and Gaza.

In a taped message broadcast by al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said al-Qa'ida now saw "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us."

The Egyptian-born physician said the Hezbollah and Palestinian fighting against Israel would not be ended with "cease-fires or agreements."

"The war with Israel does not depend on ceasefires ... . It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahri said. "We will attack everywhere."

Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims until they were driven from the country at the turn of the 16th century.

Al-Zawahri wore a grey robe and white turban. A picture of the burning World Trade Centre was on the wall behind him along with photos of two other militants. One appeared to be a bearded Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the September 11 attacks. The other was Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, a former top lieutenant of bin Laden who was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan in November 2001.

al-Qa'ida broadcasts are thought to contain coded messages to members. Three of images on the screen - that of al-Zawahri and the pictures of al-Masri and what was believed to be Atta - were Egyptian.

The Arab satellite broadcaster did not transmit the entire tape, using instead selected quotes interspersed with commentary from an anchor.

"The shells and rockets ripping apart Muslim bodies in Gaza and Lebanon are not only Israeli (weapons), but are supplied by all the countries of the crusader coalition. Therefore, every participant in the crime will pay the price," al-Zawahri said.

The message was al-Zawahri's tenth this year. Bin Laden has issued five messages in a particularly active year of messages from the top al-Qa'ida leadership.

"We cannot just watch these shells as they burn our brothers in Gaza and Lebanon and stand by idly, humiliated," al-Zawahri said.

Al-Zawahri last appeared in a video posted on an Islamic website on the first anniversary of the train bombings in London. In the July 7 tape, he said two of the four suicide bombers in London spent time in an al-Qa'ida training camp, preparing themselves for a suicide mission.

Top al-Qa'ida leaders paid tribute in June to the dead leader of their Iraq network, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in separate video recordings. Many of their messages this year have dealt with current events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

Another new audio or video message from bin Laden was also expected in the coming days and was planned to deal with Gaza and Lebanon, according to said IntelCentre, a US-based independent group that provides counter-terrorism information to the US government and media.

al-Qa'ida's media production wing, Al-Sahab, announced the al-Zawahri tape would be ready soon in a message today on and Islamic website.

Al-Zawahri said Muslims everywhere must rise up to attack "crusaders and Zionists... and support jihad (holy war) everywhere...until American troops are chased from Afghanistan and Iraq, paralysed and impotent...having paid the price for aggression against Muslims and support for Israel."

Israel began an offensive on Gaza days after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier on June 25. It opened a second front in Lebanon after Hezbollah guerillas abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

Since fighting began between Israel and Hezbollah, at least 424 people have been killed in Lebanon, according to figures compiled from the Health Ministry, military and Hezbollah.

Fifty-one Israelis have been killed, including 33 members of the military, according to Israeli authorities.