Thousands of Bahrainis mainly Shiites, took to the streets Friday on International Quds (Jerusalem )Day declared by the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini on August 1979.

Demonstrators marched through mainly Shiite villages on the outskirts of Manama chanting "Death to America", "Death to Israel" and "Israel must be wiped off the map."

Imam Khomeini, designated the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan "Quds Day" in a show of show support for the world's Muslims in particular the Palestinians.

But it was Hezbollah's longstanding Secretary General Seyyed Nasrallah, who took centre stage this year with Hezbollah's second- in-command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, delivering a pre-recorded message to the rally.

"The burden of defending al-Quds cannot be the sole responsibility of those living in Palestine, but that of all Arabs, all Muslims, and all free people," said Qassem in his taped message.

The consequences of occupying Palestine impacts the Arab and Islamic world and is "the root of many of the problems we face today."

Sheikh Qassem accused Israel of playing a major role in destabilizing the region and of agitating the international community against Iran, Syria, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and his own group.

Seyyed Nasrallah has a cult-like following among Muslims and Shiites as he is viewed by many as the only Arab leader who defeated Israel twice.

Hezbollah's popularity soared following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, with the group and its leader attracting more supporters following the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon.

The general secretary and head of al-Wefaq bloc, the largest Islamic Shiite opposition gathering in parliament, Sheikh Ali Salman said the march was in support of Palestinians who had been forced from their lands.

Al Quds is the third-holiest city in Islam, and al-Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla (direction of prayer) for Muslims. The city is also the holiest city in Judaism and the spiritual centre for Jewish people. dpa maz ds pb