DUBAI (Reuters) -- Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has called for jihad, or holy struggle, against the Israeli offensive in Gaza in a new audiotape that appeared on Islamist websites.
The Saudi-born militant said the global financial crisis had exposed the waning U.S. influence in world affairs and would in turn weaken its ally Israel.
"Our brothers in Palestine, you have suffered a lot.... The Muslims sympathize with you in what they see and hear. We, the mujahedin, sympathize with you also," bin Laden said on the tape titled "A Call for Jihad to Stop the Aggression against Gaza."
"We are with you and we will not let you down. Our fate is tied to yours in fighting the Crusader-Zionist coalition, in fighting until victory or martyrdom."
The Palestinian death toll from a 19-day-old Israeli offensive to crush the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza is nearing 1,000, causing widespread anger among ordinary Arabs and Muslims. Israel says it has lost three civilians, hit by rockets or mortars from Gaza, and 10 soldiers.
In Washington, the White House said the tape, in which bin Laden also appealed to Muslims to donate money to militants in a "financial jihad", showed his isolation.
"It appears this tape demonstrates his isolation and continued attempts to remain relevant at a time when Al-Qaeda's ideology, mission, and agenda are being questioned and challenged throughout the world," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
"This also looks to be an effort to raise money as part of their ongoing propaganda campaign," he said.
'Path Of Jihad'
In the 22-minute tape, bin Laden said that the United States was losing its dominant position in the world and that this was due to Al-Qaeda's campaign.
"The jihad of your sons against the Crusader-Zionist coalition is one of the key reasons for these destructive effects among our enemies," bin Laden said. "God has bestowed us with the patience to continue the path of jihad for another seven years, and seven and seven.... The question is, can America continue its war with us for several more decades to come? Reports and evidence would suggest otherwise."
Bin Laden last appeared in an audiotape in May 2008 when he also focused on Gaza, calling on Muslims to try to help end the blockade of the area.
He has placed growing emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years and this audiotape was accompanied by a still picture of bin Laden and an image of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third-holiest shrine.
Al-Qaeda, the network behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities, has regularly called for attacks on Israel.
It was widely blamed for a 2002 suicide attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and a simultaneous failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter jet near Mombassa airport.