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Al-Qaeda Leader to Syrian Jihadists: 'Settle' Into 'Perhaps Decades'-Long Battle

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri told jihadists in Syria to "settle yourselves into it being a battle which may last for many years and perhaps decades" by putting aside beefs between terror groups.

Zawahiri said jihadists have to reconcile amid "bloody epic battles, and the raging war, and the burning lava, which greatly pours upon them, from the fanatical Christian American-Russian alliance."

In the statement issued in Arabic and English by al-Qaeda's as-Sahab Media, the al-Qaeda leader said he issued the message as "a Muslim who is tied to you in the brotherhood of Islam," without regard to organization.

He directed the terrorists to "insist on a firm determination not to retreat, do not give up the empowerment of administering Islam and Sharia in Ash-Sham," which in their book swallows up Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories along with Syria.

"Unite and agree and gather and merge and cooperate and stack together as one rank... this is the basis of victory and salvation, Allah permitting, and bury the reasons of disagreement," Zawahiri said. "...Do not make yourselves a game in the hands of the so-called supporters, and they seek to make you a tool to achieve their ambitions or the ambitions of those who assist them, but united and come together, may Allah grant you sustenance from where you do not count."

The al-Qaeda emir also warned Syrian jihadists that the fight is "serious in its impact, but also serious in its language, and it is the battle of the heart of the Islamic and Arabic world, and it is a battle on the outskirts of Jerusalem."

"Do not expect it to be anything but a long and cruel battle, the mujahidin must be patient with it, and do not rush for results, and do not cling to the ground, but all their concern is to weaken the enemy, so that he is exhausted by the multiplicity of strikes and the long attacks and the continuation of battles and bleeding of losses," he added.

Because of the expected length of their jihad, Zawahiri said, terrorists need to focus on "unity with your brothers" in Syria "and in other lands of Islam," as they try to make the issue relevant to Muslims around the world.

"If you unite then you will enter exhilaration, and you will renew the hope in the hearts of your Ummah [Muslim community], which will gather around you to support you and help you and provide for you, Allah permitting," he added. "And fear Allah and reconcile what is between yourselves."

Zawahiri has called for unity between jihadist factions before, arguing in a video last fall that unification against the "international Satanic alliance" would create a global front to defeat the United States and allies focused on defeating terrorist groups in regional pockets.