TEHRAN, Iran – A group of influential conservative Iranian clerics launched an online registration drive on Monday seeking volunteers to fight against Israel in response to its air assault on the Gaza Strip.
About 3,550 people registered Monday with the Combatant Clergy Society's Web site. The weeklong online campaign gives volunteers three options on ways they can fight Israel: military, financial and propaganda.
• Click here to view photos from Gaza (WARNING: Graphic)
The group, which has considerable political and economic power in Iran, did not provide further details on the program including how it would contact the volunteers or implement the program.
The conservative clerics decided to sign up volunteers after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a religious decree on Sunday that said anyone killed while defending Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip against Israeli attacks would be considered a martyr.
Khamenei's religious decree was not considered a government decision and did not oblige the government to launch attacks against Israel.
But Iran considers Israel its archenemy, and its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Iran also is Hamas' main backer, though Tehran denies sending weapons to the Islamic militant group that took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Israel's airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have sparked outrage in Iran and throughout the rest of the Muslim world. About 300 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded since the air assault began Saturday. Israel says it launched its campaign in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.
Also Monday, the Iranian Red Crescent sent a ship carrying 2,000 tons of food to Palestinians living in Gaza to be delivered via Egypt. An Iranian military plane also landed at Cairo International Airport carrying 24 tons of food and medicine destined 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 Iran news agency, IRNA.