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Mideast in Brief

Bin Laden urges jihad against Israel

January 15, 2009
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CAIRO - Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel, seeking to harness anger over the Gaza offensive with a new message posted on the Internet yesterday. The Al Qaeda chief vowed to open "new fronts" against the United States and its allies beyond Iraq and Afghanistan and also criticized Arab leaders, accusing most of them of being allies of the United States and Israel. The White House dismissed the call to jihad, saying it reflects bin Laden's isolation and shows he is trying to remain relevant at a time when his ideology and mission are being challenged. Bin Laden spoke in a 22-minute audiotape posted on Islamic militant websites where Al Qaeda usually issues messages. The authenticity of the tape, bin Laden's first since May, could not be independently confirmed.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lebanese troops dismantle rockets
BEIRUT - Lebanese troops found and dismantled several rockets positioned to hit Israel after militants in the south fired three earlier yesterday - a sign Lebanon's government is determined to avoid being drawn into war with the Israelis. The second rocket attack on Israel in less than a week prompted a brief Israeli artillery retaliation, but no one was hurt in the exchange. The rocket fire highlighted the volatility of the Lebanese-Israeli border and the threat of a second front as Israel presses its offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers. No one claimed responsibility for yesterday's rockets, which crashed in an open area in northern Israel. Lebanon's government condemned the rocket fire and ordered more troops to the southern border region. The Lebanese Army later said that three more rockets were discovered and dismantled.

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International doctors call for end to violence
LONDON - International doctors called for an end to the violence in Gaza, saying hospitals were scenes of "nightmarish havoc" in articles published yesterday in The Lancet medical journal. In a special report detailing the human toll of the Gaza offensive, the Lancet said Gaza City's Al Shifa hospital asked for extra refrigeration equipment before the bodies of patients with severe wounds began decomposing. The hospital, Gaza's largest, reported its 585 beds were filled in the first week of the Israeli offensive. There was no immediate Israeli comment on the Lancet articles. In a statement last week, the World Heath Organization declared that health services in Gaza were "on the point of collapse."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Iranian asks Arab leaders to end contacts with Israel
TEHRAN - Iran's president urged Arab leaders yesterday to cut all contacts with Israel and use their political and economic influence to pressure the Israelis to halt their offensive in Gaza. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Al-Manar television, owned by the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah, that the Arabs should also pressure Israel's Western backers to stop the fighting. Iran is Hamas's main backer, providing political and financial support to the group, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

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French leader decries acts against Jews and Muslims
ORLEANS, France - President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim acts in France as a series of incidents apparently related to Israel's offensive in Gaza continued. "Those who want to import violence between different communities into France will find the state on their tracks," Sarkozy said yesterday.

REUTERS

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