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Iran calls for mass protests against Israel on Quds Day

Iranians burn an effigy of Uncle Sam during an annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran, Iran, Friday, June 23, 2017.
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi
President Hassan Rouhani calls for 'all' Iranians to protest against Israel on Quds Day

President Hassan Rouhani has called on all Iranians to turn out for mass protests expected on Friday as part of Quds Day, a series of worldwide protests against Israel inspired by Tehran.

In a statement posted on his official website Thursday, Rouhani said he "expect[s] all people throughout our dear Iran, regardless of their thoughts and beliefs, to attend Quds Day demonstrations, sending this message to the usurper Zionist Regime [Israel] that they have not forgotten the Palestinian land and the Holy Quds and the freedom of the Holy Quds is still the holy cause of the Iranian people and all Muslims."

Al-Quds is the most popular Arabic term for Jerusalem, the downfall of which symbolizes the toppling of Israel in the popular Iranian imagination.

Quds Day is an annual event created by Iran's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomenei. This year, alongside the main protest in Tehran, rallies are expected in cities around the world including New York, London, Copenhagen and Toronto, although they will not all be held on the same day.

Rouhani's message said this year's events were "special" because of US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and 2018 being "the 70th anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian land" -- a reference to Israel's War of Independence.

HO (IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP)

Iran's foreign ministry also promoted the Quds Day marches, which this year will be accompanied by mass demonstrations by Palestinians along the Gaza-Israel border.

"Such circumstances have turned this year’s Quds Day into one of the most sensitive periods of time in history as far as the issue of Palestine is concerned," a foreign ministry statement carried by Tasnim news agency said.

"This day can provide a glorious and golden opportunity to support the innocent and oppressed people of Palestine and their legitimate struggles."

Israel frequently accuses Iran of fueling weeks of Gaza protests by supporting the enclave's Islamist rulers, Hamas.

On Thursday the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dumped leaflets over Gaza claiming that "Shiite Iran" has "made it its mission to inflame tensions in the region for the sake of its religious and sectarian interests."

Mandy Blumenthal

Most Gazans are Sunni Arabs, while Iran is the Middle East's preeminent Shia power -- a top source of rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly seen as cozying up to Israel.

According to organizers Friday's London protest, instead of targeting an Israeli institution, will be held outside the Saudi embassy.

London's mayor Sadiq Khan has called on authorities in the United Kingdom to prevent participants from flying flags belonging to the Shiite militia Hezbollah.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said in a statement to i24NEWS that “No group is free to spread hatred or incite violence, which is why the police have comprehensive powers to take actions against individuals, regardless of whether a group has been proscribed or not.”

The UK has only proscribed Hezbollah's military wing as a terror organization, so flying the group's flag is allowed unless the flag-wavers demonstrate "specifically" in support of the proscribed parts of the group, according to the Home Office.

Reporting contributed by i24NEWS UK correspondent Jonathan Sacerdoti.

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