By Randall Mikkelsen

May 16, Reuters

WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden will address the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding in a Web message expected to underscore a growing focus on the Jewish state, U.S.-based Internet monitors said on Thursday.

Militant Islamist message boards on the Internet carried a banner announcing the statement with Israel's anniversary as the topic, said the monitoring service of the U.S. author and analyst who goes by the name Laura Mansfield.

The speech is addressed to "Western peoples" and entitled "The Causes of Conflict on the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israeli Occupation," the SITE Institute monitoring group said. The monitor IntelCenter said an audio-video statement was expected to be released within 72 hours.

"Bin Laden seems to be shifting gears," over the last decade, Mansfield said. "In his initial messages, bin Laden's focus was on the removal of U.S. forces from (Saudi Arabia) but in recent years he has more closely wedded himself to the Palestinian issue."

In a message on March 20, his second in 2008, bin Laden urged Muslims to maintain the struggle against U.S. forces in Iraq as a path toward "liberating Palestine."

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photo: Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden speaks at a news conference in Afghanistan in a 1998 file photo. (REUTERS/Stringer/Files)