TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Thousands of Iranians gathered on the streets Saturday to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” They condemned Washington’s support of Israel as it strikes the Gaza Strip in its war against Hamas.
The rally — which was called for by the state — came as the Israel-Hamas war entered its fourth week. About 1,400 people in Israel were killed and over 240 taken hostage after Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct.7. The Israeli retaliatory operation has killed over 9,000 people in the Gaza Strip.
People assembled outside the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, with some burning American and Israeli flags.
Protesters stomped on images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden. Others carried banners calling the U.S., “Great Satan.” The banner on the main podium read: “We trample America under our feet.”
The parliamentary speaker, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, addressed the crowds while criticizing U.S. support of Israel.
“We consider the criminal U.S. a principal culprit in all these crimes,” in Gaza and against Palestinians, he said.
Qalibaf claimed that the Hamas attack on Israel has caused “irreparable” intelligence and security damage to the Israeli state.
In a statement published on behalf of the protesters at the end of the commemoration, they called for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza and warned the U.S., Britain, and France that the crisis might expand in the region. The statement ended with a vow that Iranians would stand by Palestine “until final victory.”
The demonstration began in Palestine Square in central Tehran. Protesters walked for nearly two kilometers (1.32 miles) till they reached the former U.S. Embassy compound. State TV showed footage of similar rallies in other Iranian cities and towns.
The annual rally is a venue for anti-Western sentiments and usually draws angry crowds.
On Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the U.S. for its support of Israel, saying Israel would have been paralyzed without American support.
He called for an end to the Israel-Hamas war and for Muslim-majority nations to halt economic cooperation with the Jewish state.
Iran is a known backer of anti-Israeli militant groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement on the 44th anniversary of the embassy takeover.
“We are grateful to our diplomats who served in Tehran and to all the American diplomats who work every day to advance our interests in dangerous situations around the world,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Miller also said that “we condemn Iran’s continued detention of foreign citizens for use as bargaining chips.
“We condemn the Iranian regime’s ongoing support for Hamas and other terrorist groups across the Middle East region that engage in the abhorrent practice of hostage-taking,” he said.