Iran marked 45 years since its Islamic revolution with a ceremony yesterday in which President Ebrahim Raisi condemned Israel over the Gaza war and demanded it be expelled from the UN.
Tensions have spiralled since the bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted in the first week of October with the Palestinian group Hamas’s storming of Israel, in turn sparking violence between fighter groups and US forces.
Support for the Palestinian cause and harsh criticism of the US — often dubbed the “Great Satan” in Iran — and Israel dominated ceremonies marking the anniversary.
In Tehran, Raisi accused the “Zionist entity”, Iran’s term for Israel, of committing “genocide” in Gaza with the support of the US and other Western countries.
Supporters chanted “Down with the United States”, “Down with Israel” and “Down with the United Kingdom” at the square, where Iranian-made missiles and other military hardware were on display.
Raisi demanded that the “bombing of Gaza should be stopped as soon as possible” and declared that “the death of the Zionist regime has come”, in his speech to thousands at Azadi Square in western Tehran.
He asked about Israel: “How can a regime that has violated 400 statements and resolutions of international organisations adhere to UN covenants? “We believe that one of the important steps that should be taken is the expulsion of the Zionist regime from the UN.”
Iran has presented itself as one of the main supporters of Hamas in the war triggered by its October first week storming of southern Israel. Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and launched a military offensive that has killed at least 28,176 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Iran has hailed Hamas’s October first week storming as a “success” but denied any direct involvement.
Crowds in Azadi Square held up portraits of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah R Khomeini, and popular general Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in an US strike in January 2020.
Iran has been under crippling US sanctions since Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from a landmark deal which granted it sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US has accused Tehran of “actively facilitating” attacks on US forces in the Middle East and of backing attacks on Red Sea shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, charges Iran has denied.
Around Azadi Square, Iranian-made Qiam ballistic missiles, Shahed 136 drones and Simorgh satellite launchers were on display.
Western countries have accused Iran of supplying drones to Russia during the Ukraine war, which Tehran denies, and missiles to armed groups in the Middle East.
The celebrations come ahead of March 1 legislative elections, the first national vote since a large-scale protest movement shook Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022. Amini, 22, died after being arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
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