Iran vows to ‘save’ al-Aqsa mosque from ‘Zionists’

Rouhani praises religious leaders who helped people of Gaza during war, pledges to continue supporting Palestinians

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani at a press conference, in Tehran on June 17, 2013. (photo credit: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
Iran's president Hassan Rouhani at a press conference, in Tehran on June 17, 2013. (photo credit: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Monday that his government would continue efforts to “save” Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque from Israeli control.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s government, as before, will use all of its capabilities to save al-Aqsa Mosque, to liberate Muslims’ first qibla (the direction toward which Muslims pray) and will spare no efforts to help the oppressed people of Palestine,” Rouhani said in a conference in Tehran attended by diplomats from the Muslim world.

According to the official Tasnim News Agency, the 65-year-old leader added, “We are certain that the ultimate victory belongs to Muslims.”

The conference was held on behalf of “World Mosque Day,” an Iranian holiday meant to commemorate the value of mosques in the Islamic world.

Rouhani, considered a relative moderate among Iran’s ruling clerical class, also declared that the Muslim world would not let Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque remain “under occupation of usurpers and aggressors,” a reference to the Jewish state.

The al-Aqsa Mosque and adjacent Dome of the Rock sanctuary constitute Islam’s third-holiest site. The two buildings sit atop the Temple Mount, the site of the first and second Jewish temples, the most sacred site to Jews. The area is administered by the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem, an Islamic trust that dates back to the 12th century.

The president lauded the works of religious leaders who supported the Gazan people against the “Zionist regime” during the recent 50-day war in the Strip, adding that “Iran will do its best in support of the Palestinian nation until the freedom of occupied lands arrives,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

His statements came days after reports that the chief of Iran’s Basij militia, a paramilitary organization loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran would begin arming the West Bank. The commander further claimed that a large portion of Hamas’s arsenal, training and technical knowledge used against Israel in the recent conflict were supplied by the Islamic Republic.

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