BINT JBEIL, Lebanon — Iran's president taunted archenemy Israel on Thursday from just across the tense border in Lebanon, rallying tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters as Israeli attack helicopters buzzed in the skies nearby.
"The world should know that the Zionists will perish," declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, echoing previous verbal attacks in which he has said Israel should be wiped off the map.
"Occupied Palestine will be liberated from the filth of occupation by the strength of resistance and through the faith of the resistance," the Iranian leader vowed as cheers went up from the crowd, waving a sea of Lebanese, Iranian and Hezbollah flags.
The fiery speech was delivered in the border village of Bint Jbeil, which was nearly destroyed by Israeli bombs in the 2006 war with Hezbollah and rebuilt with the help of Iranian cash. A stronghold of the Shiite militant group, Ahmadinejad's visit to the southern Lebanese area was denounced by Washington and Israel as a provocation.
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The Iranian president's first state visit to Lebanon, it was turned into a show of strength by Hezbollah, Iran's close ally in Lebanon, which shares power in a fragile unity government with a Western-backed coalition.
Hezbollah organized a rapturous welcome Wednesday in Beirut's streets, which were bedecked with billboards and signs bearing photos of Ahmadinejad.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Ahmadinejad's border visit by saying Israel knows how to protect itself.
"We heard today the cursing and invectives from the Lebanese border. The best answer to the deriders was given here 62 years ago — the state and all that we've built and created since," Netanyahu said.