Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on followers Sunday to escalate their jihad against America in response to President Trump’s relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The remarks, released in a five-minute video entitled “Tel Aviv is Also a Land of Muslims,” came on the eve of the embassy opening — an event Zawahiri claimed was proof of the failure of the Palestinians’ “appeasement” strategy, according to a transcript released by the SITE monitoring agency.
Trump “was clear and explicit, and he revealed the true face of the modern Crusade, where standing down and appeasement does not work with them, but only resistance through the call and jihad,” said Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born physician who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the leader of al-Qaeda.
Zawahiri castigated the Palestinian Authority, which he referred to as the “sellers of Palestine,” for hesitating to use force. He criticized Arab nations more broadly for joining the United Nations, which recognizes Israel, and submitting to international law rather than Islamic law.
Bin Laden declared the U.S. “the first enemy of the Muslims, and swore that it will not dream of security until it is lived in reality in Palestine, and until all the armies of disbelief leave the land of Muhammad,” Zawahiri reminded his followers.
The “March of Return” — a weeks long, Hamas-backed protest movement — reached a fever pitch Monday as at least 43 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces while they attempted to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back on the notion that widespread unrest in Gaza represents an insurmountable challenge for the Arab–Israeli peace process during a Sunday appearance on Fox News.
“The peace process is most decidedly not dead,” Pompeo said. “We’re hard at work on it. We hope we can achieve a successful outcome there as well.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump during the embassy-opening ceremony on Monday.
“What a glorious day for Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”