Millions of people took to the streets at more than 500 demonstrations across Iran on Friday morning to commemorate International al-Quds Day, Iranian state television reported.

Waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Death to Israel”, Iranians participated in the annual show of solidarity with the Palestinians protesting Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, whose Arabic name is al-Quds. Iranian state television showed footage of Iranians burning Israeli and American flags.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the event to call for the elimination of the “insult to all humanity” that is Israel, and said that confronting it is an effort to “protect the dignity of all human beings,” according to Army Radio.

Ahmadinejad reportedly went on to say that the very existence of the state of Israel is a crime against humanity, that “the Zionist regime is a tool to dominate the Middle East” and that the world powers are “thirsty for Iranian blood.”

He expressed confidence in the emergence of “a new Middle East” with no trace of Americans or of Zionists.

The Iranian president further stated that International Quds Day is the day of unity among all human beings to remove the “Zionist black stain” from human society.

The annual event was initiated in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini and takes place on the last Friday of Ramadan, organized by the Iranian government.

The United States condemned Ahmadinejad’s comments as “hateful and divisive.”

“We strongly condemn the latest series of offensive and reprehensible comments by senior Iranian officials that are aimed at Israel,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

“The entire international community should condemn this hateful and divisive rhetoric.

“If Iranian officials are truly concerned about protecting the rights and dignity of all human beings, then Iran should stop supporting [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s brutal assault on the Syrian people,” Vietor said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Ahmadinejad’s statements, saying that regional leaders should work to tone down rhetoric rather than use it to inflame regional tensions.

“The Secretary-General is dismayed by the remarks threatening Israel’s existence attributed over the last two days to the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the UN press relations office stated. “The Secretary-General condemns these offensive and inflammatory statements.”