Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday Islamic countries must join hands to defend the people of Palestine and counter Israeli “hostile and racist” acts.
“The bitter events of the last few days and the crimes of the Zionist regime, more than ever, remind us of the need for unity and cooperation among Islamic countries to confront the Zionists’ bullying and occupation,” Rouhani said in a phone conversation with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
"It is necessary for the Islamic countries to work together to defend the Palestinian people and the freedom of this country, and to confront the aggression as well as hostile and racist actions of the Zionist regime that we have witnessed in recent days and during the holy month of Ramadan," he added, according to Press TV.
The president said Israel’s assaults on Palestinian people, including Gazans, must be immediately halted and that Palestinians must be protected.
He also said the Organization of Islamic Cooperation )OIC) should play a more active role with regard to the Palestinian issue because it was formed to resolve the issue of Palestine.
The Qatari emir echoed Rouhani’s call for an immediate end to attacks on Palestinians
“Qatar sees eye to eye with Iran in condemning [Israel] and pursuing an immediate end to attacks on Palestinians, and calls on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to play an effective role in this regard,” he said.
Call for unity against Israel
Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday urged Muslim and freedom-seeking nations to set aside their differences and unify in support of the Palestinian people’s rights against Israel.
In a statement on the anniversary of the creation of Israel, the ministry condemned Israel’s bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, saying the event comes while Palestinians are under a new round of Israeli crimes.
It said 73 years ago, the Palestinian people were deprived of their ancestral land and home due to international conspiracies, and instead, a terrorist regime was created.
Some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948 and scattered across refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Palestine’s neighboring countries. Over five million Palestinian refugees are currently estimated to be still displaced.
“Since then, the Zionists have turned occupied Palestine into a terrorist base against the Palestinian people and the Muslim nations of the region. Throughout these seven decades, the United States and some world powers have fully supported this evil regime and turned a blind eye to the endless crimes of this terrorist regime,” the ministry said.
Amid this support, the statement said, Israel has committed countless organized crimes and inhumane acts against the Palestinians and other peoples of the region.
Friday marked the fifth day of attacks by the Israeli war machine on the Gaza Strip civilians, which forced Palestinians to leave their houses in the morning.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll from the Israeli airstrikes rose to 119, including 31 children and 19 women, with 800 others wounded. The death toll in Israel from Palestinian attacks on Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Lod stood at eight with at least 100 people wounded, according to reports.
Israel also stepped up the deployment of its forces and tanks near Gaza, despite international calls for an immediate halt to its attacks.
Since the beginning of this year’s holy month of Ramadan, there have been recurring acts of aggression by Israeli forces and armed settlers against Palestinians in different areas of the occupied territories, including near the Old City of Al-Quds, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the occupied city, and at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In its statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Islamic Republic strongly condemns the recent Israeli criminal actions against Palestinians, maintaining that the only way to resolve the conflict is by holding a referendum in which all original people of Palestine, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, can vote and decide their future.
It added that the Islamic Republic regards the issue of Palestine as the first priority of the Muslim world in spite of all the plots hatched by the hegemonic powers and Israel.
Palestinian resistance movement Hamas said it has targeted an Israeli airbase, which is used by Israeli warplanes to bombard targets in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as two Iron Dome stations and a chemical factory.
“We fired a volley of Sejjil missiles at the Hatzerim airbase from which the occupation warplanes flew to bomb civilians in Gaza,” the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, said in a statement Thursday night, according to Palestinian media.
Hamas also said it targeted two of Israel’s so-called Iron Dome stations, located east of Khan Yunis and eastern Gaza, with a number of rocket-propelled grenades.
Local Israeli media reported later that the Iron Dome's batteries were hit by several rocket-propelled grenades.
Hamas also said it attacked a chemical factory in Nahal Oz Kibbutz in the Negev desert with Shihab drones.
The announcement followed an earlier statement by Hamas that it had launched a number of “suicide drones” carrying explosive payloads from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military claimed downing two such drones.
Hamas said it has launched at least 250 rockets into Israeli-occupied territories in the last few hours in response to the Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza.
Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, had previously said that “there are no red lines when it comes to responding to the Zionist enemy.”
He also said that the resistance group had begun using a new missile that can reach anywhere in Israel.
“Rockets were launched toward Ramon Airport with the Ayyash missile with a range of 250 kilometers,” Abu Ubaida said on Thursday.
A number of foreign airlines have already canceled flights to Israel due to the unrest in the occupied territories.
Israeli airstrikes on Gaza
On Friday, Israel continued its campaign of death and destruction against Gaza, mounting more airstrikes against the besieged enclave.
The Israeli military said that its air and ground forces were attacking Gaza. Israel, however, later retracted the claim, saying it was not a ground invasion.
On Friday morning, the Israeli military said some 160 aircraft flying simultaneously conducted a massive attack on what it claimed was a network of tunnels dug by Hamas under Gaza, marking the largest Israeli onslaught since the outbreak of the fighting.
During the aerial bombardment, which lasted nearly 40 minutes, some 450 missiles were fired on 150 targets in northern Gaza, the military said.
It added that in addition to the aerial aggression, Israeli tanks, artillery cannons and infantrymen on the Gaza border conducted accompanying barrages at Hamas targets.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacks against Gaza “will continue as long as necessary”.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to publicly discuss the issue on Sunday, as the United States objected to a request by China, Norway and Tunisia for a public, virtual meeting of the Council on Friday.
The US has repeatedly supported the Israeli regime’s atrocities as its “right to self-defense”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he hoped waiting a few days would allow for “diplomacy to have some effect and to see if indeed we get a real de-escalation”.