Amid the ongoing stalemate in nuclear talks, millions of Iranians reportedly turned out in rallies across their country, calling for “death to Israel” and “down with America,” as they burned flags and effigies of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The demonstrations are part of the annual “Al-Quds Day” rallies that were established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 to call for the “liberation” of Jerusalem.
“There are two sides in oppression: oppressor & the oppressed. We back the oppressed and are against oppressors,” current Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Twitter, referring to both America and Israel.
New to this year’s rallies were protests against Saudi Arabia over its leading role in the air campaign against Iranian-backed Shi’a Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“Down with U.S., Israel and the House of Saud,” a crowd in Tehran chanted, with signs saying that the “the Saudi family will fall,” AFP reported.
The top military aid to Khamenei, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said that “armed struggle” is the only possible strategy to free Jerusalem.
“Muslims’ unity and continuation of armed jihad (struggle) and the Islamic resistance of the Palestinian nation constitute the only strategy for saving and liberating the Holy Quds,” Safavi said at a rally, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) called the demonstrations a “chilling reminder of Iran’s worldview.”
“Public demonstrations in Iran on this scale, saturated with hatred of Israel and the United States, do not take place without government sanction,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Crowds trampling and burning Israeli and American flags, while shouting ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’ send a chilling message. They remind us yet again why Iran must be prevented from achieving the capacity to develop and produce nuclear weapons.”