Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."
In the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said that al-Qaida now views "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us."
The Egyptian-born physician said that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Palestinian militants would not be ended with "cease-fires or agreements."
"It is a jihad (holy war) 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 for more than seven centuries until they were driven from power in 1492.
He said Arab regimes were accomplices to Israel. "My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit ... and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies ... make yourselves martyrs."
He also called for the "downtrodden" throughout the world, not just Muslims, to join the battle against "tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America."
"Stand with Muslims in confronting this unprecedented oppression and tyranny. Stand with us as we stand with you against this injustice that was forbidden by God in his book (the Quran)," al-Zawahri said.
Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981 to 1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the al-Qaida No. 2's outreach to Shiites and non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a major change in tactics.
"This is a transformation in the vision of al-Qaida and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight," he said.