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Iran Protests Israel’s Control

January 23, 1998

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iranians burned Israeli flags Friday on a day of protests over Israel’s control of Jerusalem, a city holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

In the Iranian capital, more than 400,000 people gathered in freezing weather at Tehran University to observe ``Jerusalem Day,″ shouting ``Death to Israel!″ and ``Death to America!″

In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah party marked the day with anti-U.S. demonstrations and guerrilla attacks on Israeli troops in the south of the country.

And in Syria, Palestinian refugees staged a demonstration against Israel and the United States.

Iran’s late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, declared in 1981 that the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would be a day of protest over Israel’s capture of Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War.

Every year, the Iranian government calls for a massive turnout at nationwide rallies to underscore Islamic solidarity over the city. Iranian officials said millions took part this year.

At the rally Friday in Tehran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president, declared that Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians exceeded those of Adolf Hitler against the Jews.

``The Zionist regime is a fake government and homeland which is shaped with millions of homeless Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Muslim martyrs,″ Rafsanjani said.

``I’m sure that in the future we will have Islamic Palestine. I’m sure nothing will remain as the territory of Israel,″ he said.

Outside the university, protesters burned Israeli flags and banners emblazoned with the Star of David.

Many senior officials attended the rally, including President Mohammad Khatami, who chose not to sit in an area usually reserved for officials but rather on the floor with the crowd. Many Arab ambassadors also attended.

``I cannot tell you how happy I am to see the president sitting among us on this cold asphalt. I think he encouraged all of us today,″ said Masoud Alinaqi, a 54-year-old retired school teacher.

Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri also spoke at the rally, calling the Middle East peace process ``treason against the world of Islam and Muslim states.″

A resolution was issued at the end of the rally, calling on Muslims throughout the world to ``mobilize all their financial and spiritual resources″ to support the Palestinian uprising and bring about Israel’s ``complete annihilation.″

In his sermon, Rafsanjani called on Arab and other Muslim states to show solidarity and place their trust in Iran.

``After the Islamic revolution of Iran, there was a hope that the Islamic countries would unite and cooperate with Iran to confront the Zionist regime, but the Arabs countries were deceived and instead of confronting Israel they tried to confront Iran and wrongfully imagined Iran as their main enemy in the region.

``Iran is ready to be the front-runner in this holy route, but on the condition that you don’t stab us in the back,″ he said.

Iran has criticized the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords and expressed satisfaction with the stalled negotiations.

In Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told a rally that Hezbollah would continue to fight until it drove Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

He called on Palestinians to revive their uprising and revolt against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for signing peace agreements with Israel.

Update hourly