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Volunteer suicide bombers seek to attack Israel

(December 31, Tehran, Sri Lanka Guardian) Hard-line Iranian student groups have appealed to the government to authorize volunteer suicide bombers to leave Iran and fight against Israel in response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.

The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had not responded to the call by Wednesday. Five hard-line student groups and a conservative clerical group launched a registration drive on Monday, seeking volunteers to carry out suicide attacks against Israel.

"Volunteer student suicide groups ... are determined to go to Gaza. You are expected to issue orders to the relevant authorities in order to pave the way for such action," the students advised Ahmadinejad in an open letter, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Volunteer suicide groups have made similar moves in the past and the government never responded to their calls. However, some hard-liners have claimed they successfully but secretly left Iran and carried out attacks against Israel. Their claims could not be verified.

The hard-liners started signing up volunteers after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a religious decree on Sunday that said anyone killed while defending Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks would be considered a martyr.

In a speech Tuesday, Ahmadinejad called for the trial of Israeli leaders on charges of massacring Palestinians in Gaza. His comments come a day after Iran's judiciary set up a court to try Israeli leaders for such "crimes."

Iran considers Israel its archenemy and Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Iran also is Hamas' main backer, though Tehran denies sending weapons to the Islamic militant Palestinian group that took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Israel's airstrikes on Gaza have sparked outrage in Iran and throughout the rest of the Muslim world. Four days of Israeli air strikes have killed 374 Palestinians and prompted Arab and international condemnation and a global diplomatic push to end the fighting. Israel says it launched its campaign in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.

Iranian student leaders claim that more than 10,000 people throughout Iran have registered for volunteer suicide attacks in the past three days.

At a gathering Tuesday in Tehran to support Gazans and condemn Israeli attacks, hard-liners were distributing registration forms to volunteers.

Volunteer Ali Reza Takrim Namini said a "sense of religious obligation" made him register for suicide attacks against Israel. Another volunteer, Mostafa Babaei, said he was "willing to sacrifice" his blood in defense of Palestinian Muslims.

Hard-line students regularly rally in front of Egypt's interest section office in Tehran to condemn Cairo's refusal to reopen the Rafah border crossing with Gaza for humanitarian supplies. They have warned they will storm the mission by Thursday if Egypt doesn't condemn the Israeli attacks keeps the border crossing closed.

Protesters are also holding daily gatherings in front of Jordanian and Saudi embassies to denounce Arab silence over the Israeli bombing.

The Iranian Red Crescent has sent a ship carrying 2,000 tons of food to Palestinians living in Gaza to be delivered through Egypt and an Iranian military plane landed in Cairo Monday with 24 tons of food and medicines for Gaza.

The head of Iran's Red Crescent, Masoud Khatami, said three more ships were waiting to be loaded with humanitarian aid, and Iranian hospitals were ready to receive injured Gazans, according to the official IRNA news agency.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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