Iranian protestors set US and Israeli flags afire during a parade marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on July 1, 2016
Tehran (AFP) - Tens of thousands joined the annual pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran on Friday, where the usual threats against Israel combined with newer concerns about a region mired in bitter disputes and war.
Israel and its perceived supporters in the United States and Britain were still the main bogeymen of the Quds (Jerusalem) Day protests, which saw huge crowds rally across Iranian towns and in allied countries.
"In Lebanon alone over 100,000 missiles are ready at all times to fly... at the heart of the Zionist regime," said General Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards in a speech before Friday prayers at Tehran University.
"Tens of thousands of other missiles... have been planted across the Islamic world and are awaiting orders so that with the push of a button a sinister and dark dot on the political geography of the world disappears forever," he added.
Iran refuses to recognise Israel and support for the Palestinian cause has been a central issue for the Islamic republic since it took power in 1979.
Many at the protest in Tehran -- from young children to elderly ladies -- sported red bandanas with "I love fighting Israel" written on them, while others burned a replica of the Statue of Liberty with a Star of David on its head.
But for many of the thousands converging on Tehran University in sweltering 42-degree heat, the focus was also on Iran's deepening rivalry with Saudi Arabia and its battles against jihadists such as the Islamic State (IS) group.
Sajad Saber, a 24-year-old student, said it was the first time he had attended the rally in Tehran -- triggered by the death of a friend who had gone to fight in Syria.
"(He) was my buddy and lived in our neighbourhood. He was killed by Daesh recently in Aleppo," said Saber, using the Arabic name for IS.
Iran is fighting IS and other jihadist groups in Syria as part of its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
President Hassan Rouhani, attending the rally, said regional conflicts were making it increasingly difficult to address the Palestinian issue.
- 'Dogs of America' -
"Today, due to the divisions in the Islamic world, the presence of takfiris (Sunni extremists) and terrorists in the region... we are far away from the ideal of liberating Palestine," he told state TV, calling for greater unity between Muslims.
Many in Iran see these divisions as part of a deliberate conspiracy.
"Daesh is the creation of Israel. They want Muslims to fight each other and Palestine to be forgotten," said Ali Kotobi, a 63-year-old Iranian born in Iraq, who said his cousins were currently fighting IS across the border.
One elderly man at Friday's rally led a group in shouting "Damned House of Saud, dogs of America!" in reference to the leaders of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
Another group carried a fake coffin featuring Saudi Arabia's leaders and slogans against Daesh Sunni extremists.
Tensions between the two powers have plummeted over their support for opposing sides in wars in Yemen and Syria.
They have been further soured by the failure to agree on terms for Iranian pilgrims to visit Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj in September.
Quds Day was inaugurated by the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and has become a popular way for the Iranian government to rally the faithful.
"We ousted the Shah with these slogans," said Mostafa Mokhtari, a 43-year-old electrical engineer, referring to the Islamic revolution of 1979 that ended the rule of the US-backed Shah.
"If all the Muslims of the world keep saying this, we can destroy the Zionist regime."