Vehicles, not marches, to mark Iran's annual anti-Israel rally: president

DUBAI (Reuters) - Rallies next week in Tehran to mark the annual Quds Day against Israel will involve Iranians driving in vehicles not marching through the streets, to avoid spreading the coronavirus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on state television on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid//File Photo

The elite Revolutionary Guards would be in charge of organising the rallies, Rouhani said, adding that those joining in could still chant slogans from their vehicles and wave flags.

Rallies to mark Quds Day, which uses the Arabic name for Jerusalem, are held in towns and cities across the country and aim to show of support for the Palestinians. Typically those marching chant “Death to Israel” and burn the Israeli flag.

Rouhani said Quds Day, held each year on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which falls on May 22, would go ahead as normal in 218 other towns and cities, where the coronavirus outbreak has been less severe than the capital.

“The coronavirus danger is still there, but our situation is better than before,” he said. “”We have crossed the main peak.”

As of Saturday, Iran’s death toll from the pandemic stood at 6,937 with 118,392 diagnosed cases, the health ministry said.

The ministry spokesman said the death toll in the past 24 hours was 35, the lowest in the past 70 days, while the number of new cases was 1,757.

Shia Muslim shrines dotted around the country are due to reopen for six hours a day after Ramadan, which is based on the lunar calendar and is expected to end around May 24 this year.

Shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, Rouhani said, although he said some areas of the shrines, such as narrow corridors, would stay shut.

The president said restaurants would also reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities, but not medical schools, would reopen on June 6, Rouhani added.

Editing by Edmund Blair