Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Friday that Israel “can never” feel safe, as many thousands of Iranians marched in the annual day of protest against Israel.
Protesters took to the streets in the capital and other cities for Quds (Jerusalem) Day, held every year since the early days of Iran’s Islamic revolution to show support for the Palestinians.
“Israel can never feel that it is in a safe place,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran.
“Today, nations declare that freedom of Quds and the entire Palestinian territories is the cause and wish of all of us and they will never forget this cause,” Rouhani said, according to the Fars news agency. “God willing, the Palestinian people will return to their territories one day.”
Chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” demonstrators protested Israel’s control of Jerusalem, the city where Muslims believe Islam’s Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven. Palestinians want East Jerusalem for their future capital. They also condemned the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem on May 14.
Effigies of US President Donald Trump were set on fire and hung from a crane.
General Rahim Safavi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Senior Advisor in Military Affairs, said armed struggle was the only way to liberate Jerusalem.
“The results of the great rallies on Quds Day are becoming increasingly evident every year,” he said. “The occupied territories have turned into an unsafe place for the Zionists, and Israel’s dream to make those lands a safe haven for Jewish European migrants and other occupiers is just an illusion.”
Meanwhile the head of the paramilitary Basij forces Gholamhossein Gheibparvar said the US decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem was a “big strategic mistake” that only further united Muslims.
Fars said in its report of the protests that “millions of Iranians from all walks of life” were taking part in “nearly 900 Iranian cities.” There was no independent report on the numbers of participants in the rallies.
Iran was determined to show defiance at a time of mounting pressure from the United States and its regional allies.
“The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel want to put Iran in a corner, but they don’t know that with this action they are threatening their own security,” said parliament speaker Ali Larijani, addressing a crowd in Tehran.
The rallies come at a time when Iran is under increasing economic pressure, after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and prepares to reimpose crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic — a move that has been cheer-led by Israel.
“The supreme leader told us we should come in large numbers to show the world that the actions of the US and Israel will not have any effect on our people,” said Hassan Dorabi, a 30-year-old teacher.
The mood, as ever, was a mix of political rage and family fun, with children singing songs on stages and throwing darts at portraits of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Many were adamant that Iran is merely supporting the Palestinian people, and is not planning a military attack as Israel fears.
“We have never in our history started a war against any country and we are not going to in the future,” said Hassan Ruholamini, a 33-year-old artist.
Afateh Salehi, a 58-year-old army employee, said Iranians “want all people to live in peace together.
“We don’t want any country to attack another. We are not animals. We could live with Israel but today they want to destroy the countries around them piece by piece,” he said.
Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli terror groups such as Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
It has marked al-Quds Day since the start of its 1979 Islamic revolution.
On Thursday night Rouhani issued a statement on his website calling on Iranians to attend the rallies in large numbers.
“Quds Day is a historic day when everybody protests against tyrants and voices support of an oppressed people who have been displaced from their homes during the past 70 years,” he was quoted as saying by the official Mehr News site.
“This year’s Quds Day is special; this year, in addition to being the 70th anniversary of the occupation of Palestinian land, we are witnessing that Bayt al-Maqdis, which is respected by all Muslims, has been announced as the capital of the occupying Zionist Regime by the United States against all international rules and regulations. This year, we are also witnessing more tyranny and crimes against the oppressed people of Palestine, especially the residents of Gaza.
“On the other hand, we have witnessed more tours by the leaders of the Zionist Regime with the aim of promoting Iranophobia and attempts against the interests of the great Iranian nation in recent months.”