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IRAN VOLUNTEERS TO FIGHT ISREAL

TEHRAN: A group of Iranian hard-line clerics is signing up volunteers to fight in the Gaza Strip in response to Israel's air strikes that have killed at least 300 Palestinians, a news agency reported on Monday.
  • "From Monday the Combatant Clergy Society has activated its website www.rohaniatmobarez.com for a week to register volunteers to fight against the Zionist regime Israel in either the military, financial or propaganda fields," the semi-official Fars news agency said.
  • Fars said the hard-line group provided volunteers with a registration document called "Registration form for dispatching volunteers to Gaza." It said more than 1,100 people so far had registered for military service against Israel.
  • Khamenei said on Sunday that whoever was killed in the fight to defend Palestinians was "considered a martyr." Iran will send its first ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said.
  • "Iran has dispatched its first plane load of aid, including medicine, to Gaza on Sunday. The second cargo is on the verge of being dispatched," Qashqavi told reporters on Monday. "The first aircraft arrived in Egypt last night."The hard-line Iranian group, which is headed by some leading clergy, says it has no affiliation with the government and was formed shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks "in any way possible.
  • A religious decree is an official statement by a high-ranking religious leader that commands Muslims to carry out its message. While there is no religious and legal force behind it, Khamenei is respected by many Iranian and non-Iranian Shi'ites.
  • Iran refuses to recognize Israel, which accuses Tehran of supplying Hamas with weapons. Iran denies the claim, saying it only provides moral support to the group.
Mean while Israel patrols the coastal waters around and lands. It has declared the areas around the enclave a "closed military zone.". In Jerusalem, Israel's Cabinet approved a call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers Sunday in apparent preparation for a ground offensive.
  • The final decision to call up more reserves has yet to be made by the defense minister, Ehud Barak, and the Cabinet decision could be a pressure tactic.
  • Israel has doubled the number of troops on the Gaza border since Saturday and deployed an artillery battery. Several hundred reservists have already been summoned to join their units but no full combat formations have been mobilized so far.Military experts said Israel would need at least 10,000 soldiers for a full-scale invasion.
  • The carnage has inflamed Arab and Muslim public opinion, setting off street protests in Arab communities in Israel and the West Bank, across the Arab world and in some European cities. On Monday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded four Israelis in a West Bank settlement before he was shot and wounded. It was not immediately clear if the attack was directly connected to the events in Gaza.
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