Iranians, Iraqis march to back Palestinians, reject Trump Mideast plan

Tens of thousands of Iranians marking the annual “Quds (Jerusalem) Day” in the Islamic Republic on Friday condemned a planned Middle East peace plan that U.S. President Donald Trump has touted as the “deal of the century”.

State television said state-sponsored marches were being held in 950 communities across Iran and showed demonstrators carrying banners with slogans such as “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine” and “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

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Marchers also set fire to a Trump mask and Israeli and U.S. flags, according to pictures on Iranian news websites.

Trump’s plan is to encourage investment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Arab donor countries before grappling with thorny political issues at the heart of the conflict.

Palestinian officials, angered by Trump’s decision in 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, have already spurned it, believing it will be heavily biased in favor of Israel. Iran said it would fail.

“No to the deal of the century” read a banner splashed across the news screen on state TV, which also showed a Quds Day march in neighboring Iraq’s capital Baghdad, where thousands of fighters from powerful Shi’ite militias took to the streets.

“Al-Quds day in Baghdad, in other Iraqi provinces, and across the world, expresses rejection of the ‘deal of the century’, which is being planned by Trump in order to dissolve the Palestinian cause in (his) own way,” said Mo’een al-Kathem, a member of Baghdad’s provincial council.

The Iraqi militiamen marched in combat fatigues but were unarmed and did not showcase military vehicles and heavy weaponry, a contrast to previous years when they used the parade as an opportunity to showcase combat prowess.

Numbers in Iraq were consistent with annual turnout but there was a noted absence of influential militia leaders who usually mark the day by delivering fiery speeches critical of Israel and expressing gratitude to Iran for its backing.

Quds Day was launched by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, and is held on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Opposition to Israel is a cornerstone of Shi’ite-led Iran. It backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamist militant groups opposed to peace with Israel, which Tehran refuses to recognize.

In northwestern Kurdistan province, where rebel groups have been active for decades, police said they arrested three armed militants and foiled a planned attack on marchers in the provincial capital Sanandaj, state broadcaster IRIB reported.

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