Ayatollah Khamenei marked a subdued Quds Day, an annual event in support of Palestine, with a televised address. He also tacitly admitted for the first time that Iran funnels weapons to Palestine.
In his annual speech on the subject of Palestine on Friday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel a ''cancerous tumor'' that ''will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.''
Khamenei was speaking on what is called Quds day in Iran, referring to the Arabic name for Jerusalem. Typically, mass demonstrations in support of Palestine are encouraged, however, this year the event was particularly subdued.
He spoke for 30 minutes in a televised broadcast, a rarity for Quds day, as usually other high-ranking officials are called upon to give the keynote speech.
The supreme leader used cancer metaphors to refer to Israel several times as he spoke, and then criticized the US and other countries, including some in the Arab world, for providing it with ''various kinds of military and non-military tools of power, even with atomic weapons.''
The latter claim has never been confirmed. Israel has long maintained a policy of ambiguity with regards to whether or not it possesses nuclear bombs, but some analysts believe it has at least 80 warheads, if not hundreds.
References to 'final solution' in Quds Day cartoon
Khamenei also tacitly admitted that Iran secretly supplies Palestinian militias with weapons, making this the first time that has been publicly acknowledged.
Quds Day was first introduced right after Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979. Khamenei's predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared that it would always be held on the final Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to criticize Israel.
Khamenei, who also compared Israel to the coronavirus during his speech, has tried to insist that his vitriol about Israel is not anti-Semitic.
However, in the days leading up to Friday, his office released a cartoon graphic showing smiling Iranian-backed forces, people from Arab countries, and two Orthodox Jews bearing a headline that included the phrase "the final solution,'' a phrase used by Nazi Germany to describe the planned extermination of all Jewish people.
The image was later deleted from Khamenei's personal Twitter account, but remains visible on his office's Farsi-language website.
Israel's Foreign Ministry responded by saying: "We have experience with leaders who talk about 'final solutions,' and we promise: Not on our watch."
es/mm (AP, AFP)