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Iranians hold annual pro-Palestinian rallies nationwide

Iran's supreme leader condemns Arab states' 'treacherous move' to normalise relations with Israel
Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi taking part in a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) day in Tehran, on 29 April 2022 (AFP)

Thousands of Iranians took to the streets on Friday for the nation's annual rallies in support of Palestine, as tensions continued to rise in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Across Iran, flag-waving protesters chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," the state broadcaster Irib reported.

They also held up signs reading "Jerusalem is ours" and "Quds Day is the day of Islam," Irib said, noting that rallies took place in the capital, Tehran, and several Iranian cities.

In Tehran, ballistic missiles were on display and protesters torched Israeli flags.

The Quds (Jerusalem) Day commemorations, held on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, were started in 1979 by Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Iran and Israel have been adversaries since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They are engaged in a deadly shadow war, with Iran aiding proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and the occupied Palestinian territories, while Israel targets Tehran's military assets across the region and conducts covert actions against its nuclear programme.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, marked Friday's commemorations by making live televised remarks in Arabic, addressed to the Palestinian people.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran backs and supports the Palestinian resistance... and we condemn the treacherous move to normalise relations [with Israel]," he said.

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In 2020, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco normalised ties with Israel through a series of deals.

Khamenei also slammed those in the West backing Ukraine against Russia's invasion.

"They are making so much noise about the situation in Ukraine... [and] are keeping totally silent about the crimes in Palestine." 

Earlier this month, the head of Iran's Quds Force, an elite branch of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, vowed that Iran would continue "leading" militias across the Middle East, as he took aim at Israel and the US.

In a speech to supporters and senior commanders of the corps, Brigadier-General Esmail Qaani said all Islamic militias would "undoubtedly" enjoy Iran's backing.

"The US and the Zionists should know that this is our definite path," he said. "The Islamic revolution of Iran knows how to guide young, motivated Muslims to defend themselves."

Violence in the occupied West Bank has risen recently, with Israeli security forces repeatedly storming al-Aqsa Mosque over the past month. In the past two weeks, nearly 300 Palestinians have been injured in attacks at al-Aqsa complex, Islam's third-holiest site. It is also Judaism's holiest place and known to Jews as the Temple Mount. 

The fighting has sparked fears of another conflict after similar assaults on al-Aqsa in May 2021 prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and among the Palestinian community inside Israel, triggering a large-scale Israeli military operation on the besieged Gaza Strip, in which more than 200 Palestinians were killed.

A total of 29 Palestinians have died since 22 March, amid heightened tensions and Israeli military raids following a series of attacks on targets inside Israel.

At least 12 Israelis and two Ukrainians have been killed in four separate attacks inside Israel since the end of March.