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Iran Offers Support For Palestinian Militants Fighting Trump Move On Jerusalem


General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force (file photo)

A top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander has offered Iran's "complete support" for Palestinian militants in their resistance campaign against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

General Qassem Soleimani, who oversees the IRGC's foreign operations branch, made the offer to the Palestinian commanders of Islamic Jihad and the Izz Al-Deen Qassam brigades, the armed wings of the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, in telephone conversations on December 11, the IRGC's website Sepah News reported.

His offer came as rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on December 11, with one intercepted by Israel's missile-defense system, the Israeli army said.

In response, the Israel army said it hit Hamas military positions in the strip with tank and aircraft fire.

A series of cross-border exchanges between Israel and Hamas fighters over missiles fired since Trump announced his decision on December 6 have left at least four Palestinians dead, but no injuries were reported on December 11.

The Iranian army's chief of staff, General Mohammad Baqeri, said on December 11 that Trump's "foolish move" on Jerusalem could be seen as the beginning of a new intifada, or Palestinian uprising, Iranian state media reported.

Iran's defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said the move will only "hasten the destruction of the Zionist regime and double the unity of Muslims," state media reported.

Soleimani, who has commanded Iranian forces battling in Syria and Iraq, said all "resistance groups" in the region were prepared to defend Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, as well as the location of the First and Second Temples, the most sacred site for Jews, the IRGC's website said.

Soleimani is the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force and led Iran's fight against the extremist group Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria. His troops continue to provide crucial backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his war against Sunni Muslim rebels.

Iran last week harshly criticized Trump's decision on Jerusalem and threatened consequences, with President Hassan Rohani saying the holy city represented "more than just politics."

The U.S. move has sparked protests by Muslims around the world in support of the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

Trump maintains he was only recognizing the "reality" of Israel's move years ago to annex East Jerusalem and declare all of the city as its capital -- a move never previously recognized by the United States and still rejected by most other countries.

On December 11, in a fifth day of protests over Trump's decision, Iran's Lebanese ally Hizballah -- which fought a war with Israel in 2006 -- organized a demonstration in Beirut in which tens of thousands of people chanted "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!"

In Tehran, hundreds of Iranians rallied against Israel and echoed the defense chief's assertion that Trump has "hastened Israel's demise" with his decision.

A neon board loomed over the square where the demonstrations occurred saying there are only 8,240 days left for Israel -- a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's prediction that Israel will be gone by 2030.

In Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. There were also low-level clashes in Hebron and the Gaza Strip.

About 27 Palestinians were wounded by live fire or rubber bullets throughout the day, the Red Crescent said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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