updated 7/7/2006 11:55:42 PM ET 2006-07-08T03:55:42

Iran’s hard-line president warned Friday that Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip could set off an “explosion” in the Islamic world against Israel and its supporters.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital, Tehran, to condemn the strikes in the Gaza Strip that Israel’s backers could be the target of revenge by Muslims.

“They should not let things reach a point where an explosion occurs in the Islamic world,” he said. “If an explosion occurs, then it won’t be limited to geographical boundaries. It will also burn all those who created (Israel) over the past 60 years.”

Ahmadinejad once again questioned Israel’s right to exist as he did last year.

“This is a fake regime ... it won’t be able to survive. I think the only way (forward) is that those who created it (the West) take it away themselves,” the president said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the remarks by the Iranian president, saying the human rights group takes “Ahmadinejad’s threat very seriously.”

Muted reaction across Mideast
Arabs have staged only small and sporadic demonstrations and their governments have made few complaints since Israel invaded Gaza last week in a bid to force the release of the Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants.

Egypt, the biggest Arab nation, has not formally criticized Israel’s incursion. Instead it has tried to broker a deal between the militants and Israel.

Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the Gulf states have condemned Israel’s military offensive, particularly when Israeli aircraft buzzed the Syrian president’s summer residence last week. But most of the criticisms sounded routine.

There has been little pressure from the Arab street.

Twenty-four Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed Thursday in fighting in Gaza. But on Friday, the usual day for demonstrations in the Middle East, there were no protests in Egypt or Lebanon. In Amman, Jordan, several hundred people gathered at a mosque.

Protests losing their affect?
Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi said Arabs were not demonstrating because “they do not want to confront the security apparatuses of the Arab regimes.”

People have found “that protesting in the streets does not have an effect anymore,” he added.

Iranian analysts described Ahmadinejad’s diatribe against Israel as populist bluster.

“Ahmadinejad is simply trying to attract global attention and create controversy. He likes it,” said Yadollah Eslami, an analyst.

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