Iranian officials on Saturday strongly disputed media reports that Iran‘s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini has banned volunteers from leaving the country to carry out suicide bombings against Israel and stressed that the supreme leader meant only that practical obstacles remained for such attackers to get to Gaza.
The officials said The Associated Press misinterpreted‘s comments when he said Thursday that “our hands are tied in this arena.” The AP also quoted Khamenei as saying that Iran would assist the Hamas, which is fighting Israel, in other ways.
The Iranian officials said Khamenei’s words should not have been interpreted as a ban on such volunteers, but meant that any Iranians would have great practical difficulty in reaching Gaza because of Israel’s offensive. The report was used by some Arab television stations.
An Iranian hardliner wears a headband reading “Martyrdom” as he stands in front of a picture of Al-Aqsa mosque during a rally in Tehran to condemn the Israeli attacks on Gaza, December 30, 2008.REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN)
Last week, hardlinehad asked the government to authorize volunteers to carry out suicide bombings in Israel in support of Hamas. The students began signing up after Khamenei issued a religious decree on Dec. 28 saying anyone killed while defending Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks would be considered a martyr.
Volunteer suicide groups have made similar requests in the past and the government never responded to their calls.
The student groups claim that more than 70,000 people throughout Iran have registered as volunteer since Israel launched its assault against Hamas-ruled Gaza on Dec. 27.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has killed more than 700 Palestinians, has outraged many in Iran and the Arab world.
Israel says it launched the offensive to get Hamas from shooting rockets into southern Israel. Thirteen Israelis have died since the offensive began.
— Associated Press