DUBAI: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described Israel’s assault on Gaza as a genocide of Palestinians and said it must stop immediately, state TV reported on Tuesday.
A senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) also warned of further action by Tehran-backed militant groups against Israel if it did not cease its attacks.
Israel has bombarded the Palestinian territory of Gaza with air strikes since Hamas fighters burst into Israel from the enclave on Oct. 7 and killed 1,300 people, most of them civilians.
It has vowed to annihilate the Tehran-backed Hamas, which rules Gaza.
But the Israeli retaliatory strikes have killed more than 2,800 Palestinians, a quarter of them children, and driven around half of the 2.3 million Gazans from their homes. Israel has also imposed a total blockade on the enclave, preventing food, fuel and medical supplies from getting in.
“No one can confront Muslims and the resistance forces if the Zionist regime’s (Israel) crimes against Palestinians continue. The bombardment of Gaza must stop immediately,” Khamenei told a group of students in Tehran.
“The world is witnessing the Zionist regime’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,” he said to chants of “Death to Israel”.
Backing the Palestinian cause has been a pillar of the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution as the Shia-dominated country has sought to portray itself as a leader of the Muslim world.
Israel, which Tehran refuses to recognise, has long accused Iran’s clerical rulers of stoking violence by supplying arms to Hamas. Tehran says it gives moral and financial support to the group.
“We must respond, we must react to what is happening in Gaza,” Khamenei said.
Israeli officials should face trial for their actions against the Palestinians in Gaza, he added.
Separately, the Revolutionary Guards deputy commander-in-chief, Ali Fadavi, warned of more attacks by militants if Israel did not stop what he called its atrocities in Gaza, the Fars news agency reported.
“The resistance front’s shocks against the Zionist regime will continue until this ‘cancerous tumour’ is eradicated from the world map,” Fadavi said.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that supporting the Palestinians was Iran’s foreign policy priority but the militant groups make their own independent decisions.