Iran rallies for Gaza, Rouhani slams silence over Israel’s crimes

TEHRAN – Iranians rallied nationwide on Friday in a show of support for Palestinians as Israel pursued its deadly campaign against the Gaza Strip.

Demonstrations were held in Tehran and more than 700 towns and cities across the country on the last day of prayer and rest of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramazan, state television reported. In the capital, footage showed demonstrators, carrying placards proclaiming "Death to Israel" and "Death to America," converging from nine different points on the Tehran University in the city centre.

Iran holds Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) rallies in support of the Palestinians every year on the last Friday of Ramazan, but this year's demonstrations came on the 18th day of Israel's deadly attacks in Gaza. More than 800 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the assault on Gaza. “The Islamic world must in unison declare this day one of anger, hatred, unity and resistance against Israel,” President Hassan Rouhani said at the Tehran demonstration.

Rouhani, who has overseen a fledgling rapprochement with the West condemned, those who stay silent in the face of the Zionist regime's crimes. "The world demands an end to the Gaza blockade, opening the Rafah crossing and halting attacks on Gaza so its people can live normally,” he said. He was referring to the demands of Hamas for any truce with Israel to end the deadly violence.

The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is the territory's only one route not controlled by Israel. General Hossein Salami, second in command of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, struck a defiant tone in a speech broadcast on state television. "Now no place in the occupied territories is safe for the Zionists. The missiles of Palestinian fighters have a range well beyond what the Zionists believe,” he said.

"We will continue house by house and avenge the blood of martyrs shed in Palestine." Salami's sentiments were echoed by demonstrators. "My message to the Palestinians is this: continue the struggle until your last drop of blood. Islamic countries, especially Iran, are behind you to save you,” a young protester called Hassan told AFP. Iran does not recognise Israel's existence, and supports Palestinians.

On Thursday, Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani told state television's Arabic service that Tehran had provided Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel. "Today, the fighters in Gaza have good capabilities and can meet their own needs for weapons," he said. "But once upon a time, they needed arms manufacture know-how and we gave it to them."

On Wednesday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on the Palestinians to keep fighting Israel and to expand their resistance from Gaza to the occupied West Bank. During the last major conflict in and around Gaza in November 2012, Larijani said Iran was proud to have provided both financial and military support to the Hamas.

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