Hundreds of Iranians took part in rallies across the country on Friday to condemn U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Reuters reports. Leaders of Iran, where opposition to Israel and support for the Palestinian cause has been central to foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution, have denounced Trump’s move, including his plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
State TV aired footage of marchers chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, holding up Palestinian flags and banners saying: “Quds belongs to Muslims”, using the Arabic name for the city. In several cities protesters burned effigies of Trump, Iranian media reported.
Describing the United States and Israel as oppressors, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Trump’s decision was a sign of incompetence and failure. Rouhani rejected Trump’s decision as “wrong, illegitimate, provocative and very dangerous”.
The demonstrations were held at about 1000 cities in Iran with more than 80-million population. In Tehran, tens of thousands of protesters condemned Trump’s decision, chanting slogans against Israel and the U.S. and expressing support for the Palestinian nation.
“We will not leave Palestinians alone,” worshippers chanted at Friday prayers in Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Ministry immediately issued a statement denouncing the move and said it stands in stark violation of “international resolutions”.
Opposition to Trump’s move has united Iran’s hardline and pragmatist factions, with both pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani and commanders of the hardline Revolutionary Guards urging Iranians to join nationwide “Day of Rage” rallies.
Some protesters burned pictures of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while chanting “Death to the Devil.” Rouhani rejected Trump’s decision as “wrong, illegitimate, provocative and very dangerous.” Senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University that Muslims around the world should unite against Israel. Iran’s army chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri said Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was “unwise” and could fuel tension in the crisis-hit Middle East, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an ultra-conservative and a key leader of the main weekly Muslim prayers, said Trump had drawn a line on years of peace efforts by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“He proved that the cure for the issue of Palestine is only, only, an intifada (uprising). Only intifadas can turn day into a dark night for the Zionist regime. Any damage that you can incur to this occupying and criminal regime will mean you have taken a step towards pleasing God,” Khatami, who was appointed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said in his sermon at Mosalla, Tehran’s largest mosque, urging the Palestinian people to rise and “rage against this occupying regime”.
Khatami is notorious for his threats and controversial comments. He previously said that Iran still considers the United States to be “the Great Satan” despite the nuclear agreement that it signed with world powers, including the U.S.
When Barack Obama was in office, Khatami said that the Iranian president should “punch the American president in the mouth” if he “talks nonsense.” He recently threatened to “shatter the teeth” of Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.