Bin Laden: Gaza offensive was a 'holocaust'

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden called Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip a "holocaust" and lashed out at Arab governments that he said failed to stop the bloodshed in an audio recording broadcast Saturday, AP reported.

Bin Laden, whose message was released in excerpts on Al-Jazeera TV, called Arab leaders hypocrites and accused them of sacrificing the Palestinians in Gaza and collaborating with Israel. The three-week offensive, which ended on Jan. 18, killed about 1,300 Palestinians, according to Palestinian human rights groups.

"It was clear that some of the Arab leaders have collaborated with the Crusader-Zionist alliance against our people, those whom America calls the moderate leaders," said bin Laden. "We must disown ourselves from all those" governments.

He did not mention any governments by name in the brief excerpts, but Egypt, in particular, drew criticism during the offensive for not opening its border with Gaza to more aid shipments and humanitarian cases.

Both Israel and Egypt have closed their borders with Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas violently seized control of the Palestinian territory in June 2007. The closure deepened economic hardship in the already impoverished strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians.

It was bin Laden's second audio message on the Gaza offensive since January, when he urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel. It was not possible to verify the message's authenticity. A spokesman for Al-Jazeera refused to say how the network obtained the recording.

The terror leader again urged Muslims to fight Israel.

"The Gaza holocaust, amid this prolonged embargo, is an important historic event and a catastrophe that shows the necessity of distinguishing Muslims from hypocrites," he said. "It is not right that our situation after Gaza will be as it used to be before. There should be serious work and preparation for jihad to fulfill righteousness and defeat evil."

Bin Laden called on faithful Muslims to support militants in Iraq and said that country should be used as a departure point for attacks on Israel. He suggested fighters use a route from Iraq through Jordan and into the West Bank.

He said supporting fighters in Iraq was a "rare and precious chance" for ultimately taking control of Jerusalem. After taking control of Iraq, he said, fighters should then head to neighboring Jordan.

"Jordan ... is the best and widest front, and from Jordan the second launching will be toward the West Bank and the borders will be forcibly opened," he said.

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