TEHRAN, Iran – Hard-line student groups appealed to the Iranian government to authorize volunteer homicide bombers to leave Iran and attack Israel in response to the Israeli assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not yet responded to the call by Wednesday. Five hard-line student groups and a conservative clerical group launched on Monday a registration drive since Monday, seeking volunteers to carry out homicide attacks against Israel.
Student leaders claim more than 10,000 people throughout Iran have registered for volunteer homicide attacks in the past three days.
"Volunteer student homicide 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 asked Ahmadinejad in an open letter, a copy of which was made available to the AP Wednesday.
Volunteer homicide 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 claim 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 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. Four days of Israeli air strikes has 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.
At a gathering in Tehran Tuesday to support Gazans and condemn Israeli attacks, hard-liners were distributing registration forms to volunteers.
"A sense of religious obligation has encouraged me to register for homicide attacks against Israel. How can I remain indifferent while defenseless Palestinians are being butchered," said volunteer Ali Reza Takrim Namini, as he was filling up the form.
Mostafa Babaei, another volunteer, said he was prepared for homicide attacks.
"I'm willing to sacrifice my blood in support of Islam and in defense of Palestinian Muslims," he said.
Hard-line students are regularly holding protest rallies in front of Egyptian interests section to condemn Cairo's refusal to re-open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza to allow shipment of humanitarian supplies.
The students have warned they will storm the mission by Thursday if Egypt doesn't condemn the Israeli attacks and Rafah border crossing remains closed.
Protesters are also holding daily gatherings in front of Jordanian and Saudi embassies to denounce Arab silence over the tragedy.
On 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 in Cairo Monday 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 IRNA news agency.