Bin Laden warns Israel is target

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The Independent Online

Osama bin Laden vowed in a new audio message released yesterday to keep fighting Israel to liberate Palestinians, claiming this cause was at the heart of al-Qaida's holy war with the West.

The terrorist leader's third statement this year was released to mark the Jewish state's 60th anniversary and came out as US President George W. Bush was wrapping up his visit to Israel to celebrate the occasion.

"We will continue our struggle against the Israelis and their allies," bin Laden said in the 10-minute audiotape. "We are not going to give up an inch of the land of Palestine."

Al-Qaida is increasingly using the Israeli-Arab conflict to rally supporters. Israel has warned of growing al-Qaida activity in Palestinian territory, though the terror network is not believed to have taken a strong role there so far.

Bin Laden said the Palestinian cause was the most important factor driving al-Qaida's war with the West and it motivated 19 Muslims to carry out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"To Western nations ... this speech is to understand the core reason of the war between our civilization and your civilizations. I mean the Palestinian cause," bin Laden said at the conclusion of his message.

"The Palestinian cause is the major issue for my (Islamic) nation. It was an important element in fueling me from the beginning and the 19 others with a great motive to fight for those subjected to injustice and the oppressed," he said.

The authenticity of the message could not be verified, but it was posted on a Web site commonly used by al-Qaida and the voice resembled the one in past bin Laden audiotapes. Though it was unknown exactly when the audio was recorded, but it referenced Israel's 60th anniversary, which began May 8.

The audio message was accompanied by a photo of bin Laden wearing a white robe and turban next to a picture of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. It was unclear when the photo was taken.

The al-Qaida leader said the Western media brainwashed people over the past 60 years by "portraying the Jewish invaders, the occupiers of our land, as the victims while it portrayed us as the terrorists."

"Sixty years ago, the Israeli state didn't exist. Instead, it was established on the land of Palestine raped by force," he said. "Israelis are occupying invaders whom we should fight."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel dismissed bin Laden's new message.

"We do not relate or pay attention to the words of this terrorist lunatic," he said. "The time has come for him to be apprehended and pay for his crimes."

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the rugged mountains along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The al-Qaida chief criticized Western leaders such as Bush who participated in Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations.

Bush feted Israel on Thursday and predicted its 120th birthday would find it alongside a Palestinian state in an all-democratic neighborhood free of today's oppression, restrictions on freedom and extremist Muslim movements.

Speaking to the Israeli parliament, Bush made no acknowledgment in that speech of the hardship Palestinians suffered when hundreds of thousands were displaced following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, a counterpoint to Israel's two weeks of jubilant celebrations.

Though Bush has set a goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian deal before the end of his term in January, he did not mention the ongoing negotiations or how to resolve the thorniest disputes.

Bin Laden said Western leaders were insincere in their expressed desire for Israeli-Palestinian peace and failed to criticize Israel.