Iran city mayor apologises over 'idiotic' billboard showing Israeli troops
A billboard that was meant to mark the Iran-Iraq war in Shiraz caused outrage after mistakenly featuring Israeli soldiers.
The Iranian mayor for Shiraz apologised for the mistake, the online conservative news agency Tasnim reported on Friday.
"The billboard was installed in Shiraz showing three male soldiers standing on a rocky outcrop" next to a quote from an epic Persian poem, Tasnim wrote.
But the shot was actually a photoshopped picture of Israel Defence Forces, according to Tasnim, with a female soldier from the original picture having been cropped out.
The banner was pulled down from the southwestern city on Wednesday night and the mayor issued an apology the next day.
"This mistake of putting up such a despicable banner during the sacred defence week is unforgivable," Tasnim quoted mayor Heydar Eskandarpour as saying.
Iran commonly refers to the brutal eight-year war with Iraq as "the sacred defence". In recent days, the country has been marking the start of the conflict which began on September 22, 1980 and killed an estimated 680,000 people.
"In addition to apologising to Shiraz's pious and noble people, I ask the authorities to investigate the roots of this suspicious act and promptly report to the people," the mayor added.
Two public relation officials at the municipality were later fired on Thursday night, according to news agency Fars.
Iranian social media was abuzz with heated reactions to the “idiotic” controversy.
"M16 guns, straps, clothes, helmets: all clearly belong to Zionists. The best I can say is that you did something idiotic," wrote a Twitter user identified as @mhrezaa.
Another Iranian user @masoudasadi67 also called for the swift punishment of "those who committed such a heinous act.”
Iran and Israel consider each other regional-arch enemies, with both countries regularly exchanging a war of words on the international stage.
In the latest exchange, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday dismissed Israeli claims that Tehran was harbouring a secret atomic warehouse during the UN General Assembly, belittling Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech as a mere arts and craft show.
Netanyahu held up a map and a photograph of an outwardly "innocent looking compound" which he said was a secret atomic warehouse in Tehran and urged the UN atomic agency to inspect.
"No arts & craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is only regime in our region with a *secret* and *undeclared* nuclear weapons program," Zarif said in a tweet.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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