Iran has condemned Israel’s continued settlement expansion activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and its desecration of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of al-Quds (Jerusalem).
“The Zionist regime's planned attempts to fully Judaize al-Quds and to destroy its historical and civilizational identity, the regime's settlement activities, its raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque and desecration of its sanctity… have created a dire situation,” read a statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, two days ahead of the International Quds Day.
Quds Day is held annually on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan during which demonstrators call for the liberation of Palestine and an end to the Israeli occupation.
The occupied Palestinian territories have been the scene of heightened tensions since August 2015, when Israel imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds. The al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site for Muslims after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina. Palestinians are angry at increasing violence by Israeli settlers at the mosque compound and their attacks on Palestinian property, saying the Tel Aviv regime seeks to change the status quo of the sacred site.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry statement added that “supporting the people of Palestine and Palestinian resistance groups in the path of unity against the Zionist regime" is high on the agenda of this year's Quds Day rallies.
The statement also slammed Israel’s inhumane treatment of prisoners and Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip which it said is bringing Palestine to the brink of a “humanitarian disaster.”
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
There are reportedly more than 6,500 Palestinians held at Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have been apparently incarcerated under the administrative detention, which is a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.
Over half a million Israelis live in more than 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East al-Quds. All the Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. However, Tel Aviv has defied calls to stop settlement expansions.
In addition, Israel’s devastating summer war in 2014 and two other military operations over the last six years have caused economic losses close to three times the size of Gaza's gross domestic product. The latest onslaught claimed the lives of over 2,200 Palestinians and left over half a million more displaced. It also severely damaged more than 20,000 homes, 148 schools, 15 hospitals, and 45 clinics. At least 247 factories and 300 commercial centers were rendered inoperable or totally destroyed in the attack.