Iran’s Khamenei says liberating Palestine is an ‘Islamic duty’

Khamenei gives his first ever speech marking Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran. (AP pic)

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader said it was an “Islamic duty” to fight for the “liberation of Palestine” in a landmark speech Friday amid rising tensions with regional arch-enemy Israel.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at Western nations and their Arab “puppets” for supporting the Jewish state, in his first ever speech marking Quds (Jerusalem) Day.

The 80-year-old leader also appeared to confirm for the first time that Iran has helped to provide Palestinians with arms.

“The aim of this struggle is the liberation of the entire Palestinian land” and “the return of all Palestinians to their country”, Khamenei said in an address broadcast live on state television.

“The policy of normalising the presence of the Zionist regime in the region is one of the major policies of the US,” he said.

“Some Arab governments in the region, which play the role of US puppets, have provided the necessary preconditions for this, such as economic ties and the like; these efforts are completely fruitless and sterile.

“Everyone must fill the hand of the Palestinian fighter and strengthen his back.

“We will proudly do our best in this way.

“One day we realised that the only problem of the Palestinian fighter … was the lack of weapons.

“We planned” to resolve this issue, and “the result is that the balance of power in Palestine has changed: today Gaza can stand up to the Zionist enemy’s military aggression and win”.

Iran has marked Quds Day every year since the 1979 Islamic Revolution on the last Friday of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Khamenei was speaking at the event for the first time in more than 30 years as the supreme leader, although he has repeatedly referred to the Palestinian cause as “the main problem of the Muslim world”.

The Islamic republic has cancelled this year’s Quds Day rallies to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in the country in February.

This year’s Quds Day comes after the assassination in January of Qassem Soleimani, the powerful commander of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.