TEHRAN, April 19 (UPI) -- Thousands of Iranians celebrated their nation's annual Army Day this weekend, with a full-on military parade -- replete with contempt for the United States and archenemy Israel, media reports said.
The day of observance, called Rouz-e Artesh, happens every year on April 18 and is intended to celebrate the day the Iranian army was established. Saturday's event, which occurred amid escalating hostilities in the Middle East and nuclear negotiations with Western powers, was rife with anti-Israel sentiment.
Rouz-e Artesh parades are typically marked by exhibitions of Tehran's military might and staunch Islamic rhetoric, and Saturday was no different. A military truck in the convoy displayed a large banner that read, "Death to Israel," the Times of Israel reported.
Boisterous opposition to Iran's enemies was not only seen, but also heard. Hundreds of parade attendees took things a step further by chanting, "death to Israel" and "death to America."
In fact, apparently even the television commentator broadcasting the parade on state TV joined in.
"If Israel makes a mistake, those in Tel Aviv and Haifa will not sleep at night, not one person," he said during the broadcast.
The Iranian government typically makes a show of force during Rouz-e Artesh, displaying new weapons systems and other defense technologies. On Saturday, officials included a domestically produced Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile, the Times reported.
"Our method of action is defense and not offense," President Hasan Rouhani said during the event, addressing instability in the Middle East.
Responding to the Saudi-led military strategy in Yemen, Rouhani said the government in Riyadh is getting what it deserves from the Iran-backed rebels there.
"You planted the seeds of hatred in this region and you will see the response sooner or later," he said.
For the last three weeks, Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against Shiite rebels and factions loyal to Yemen's ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was removed in February. Tehran supports the rebels, but claims it has not provided them with any military assistance.
Saturday's event occurred amid ongoing negotiations between Tehran and Western powers, led by the United States. The West is seeking independent regulation of the nation's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of certain economic sanctions.
Last week, Rouhani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei derided the United States and claimed any deal would require the immediate removal of the sanctions -- some of which are forcing Iran to keep millions of barrels of crude oil in storage. But the United States wants to go the phase-out route -- lifting the sanctions only once independent inspectors verify that Tehran is living up to its end of the deal.
"The armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are the mightiest and greatest armed forces of the region thanks to their self-reliance, self-dependence, and innovation," Rouhani said, also encouraging other nations to mobilize their military to safeguard peace, the Tehran Times reported.
Among those to which Rouz-e Artesh pays tribute are veterans from the devastating Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and families of Islamic martyrs.