Iran supreme leader calls Israel a 'rabid dog' for Gaza attacks and urges arms for Palestinians

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemns conflict as 'catastrophe of historical scale'

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The Independent Online

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned Israel as a "rabid dog" for its bombardment of Gaza, and called on Muslims to arm Palestinians to enable them to counter what he described as "genocide".

In a speech marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Mr Khamenei criticised the United States and European countries for what he claimed were their efforts to limit the military capacity of Palestinian fighters as the conflict between Israel and Hamas raged for a 22nd day.

His speech was delivered to a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Tehran and was broadcast live on state television. It came as the home of Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh was among at least 60 locations targeted overnight by airstrikes in the heaviest bombardment of Gaza during three weeks of fighting.

About 1,100 Gazans, most of them civilians, have been killed during the conflict. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died as a result of Palestinian shelling.

Of Israel, he said: "This rabid dog, this rapacious wolf, has attacked innocent people and humanity must show a reaction. This is genocide, a catastrophe of historical scale."

Mr Khamenei denounced what he claimed was a ruling by the US President Barack Obama to disarm Palestinians - an apparent reference to US opposition to efforts by Hamas to obtain weapons such as missiles and rockets. Washington views Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

"They have been pounding innocent people day and night and these men women and children are defending themselves with minimum means, and now Americans and Europeans want to take even that away ... so that those merciless beasts could pound without qualm."

Mr Khamenei said Iran took the opposite stance about arming Palestinians.

Video: Latest Israeli air strikes cause damage in Gaza

"Everyone, whoever has the means, especially in the Islamic world, they should do what they can to arm the Palestinian nation ... the Zionist regime deeply regrets starting this (war) but has no way out."

Israel began its offensive on 8 July with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies and protecting its civilians. 

It has since launched a ground invasion to locate and destroy the network of Hamas tunnels. On Monday evening, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a protracted military campaign that would continue until Hamas tunnels have been destroyed.

Additional reporting by Reuters