Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday called Israel “not a country, but a terrorist base” during a speech on Al-Quds Day, an annual show of solidarity with the Palestinians.
Thousands massed for rallies across several Muslim-majority countries including Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan for the day, seen in Israel as an expression of hatred and anti-Semitism.
Tensions have been running high between arch-foes Iran and Israel following a series of maritime attacks, an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility and the assassination of a top nuclear scientist that Tehran blamed on Israel.
The Islamic republic does not recognise the Jewish state, and supporting the Palestinian cause, as well as backing armed groups such as Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has long been a pillar of Iran’s foreign policy.
“Israel is not a country, but a terrorist base against the nation of Palestine and other Muslim nations,” Khamenei said in live televised remarks. “Fighting this despotic regime is fighting oppression and terrorism, and (doing so) is everyone’s duty,” he added.
Khamenei also blasted Israel’s normalisation of ties with “some weak Arab governments” during the past year as attempts to undermine the Israeli “nightmare of Muslim unity”.
The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have all normalised ties with Israel in recent months under US-brokered deals.