Protestors in Iran
Protestors in IranIsrael news photo: (file)

Iranian riot police, armed with tear gas and backed by helicopters, forced protestors off the streets Saturday as the massive protests against last week’s elections appeared to weaken. Nineteen protestors and policemen were killed Saturday, bringing the week's death toll to 38. Unconfirmed reports placed the number killed at Saturday at 150.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top Muslim leader, accused “dirty Zionists" and “Zionist media” for being behind charges that the results of the election were rigged. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner two hours after the voting stations closed a week ago on Friday. His opponent, Mir Hussein Moussavi, lost even in his own city, according to official election results.

Moussavi, buoyed by millions of supporters, mostly students and women, challenged the country's Muslim rulers and said he was “ready for martyrdom.” He demanded that the election results be voided, in what was considered severe defiance of the supreme Muslim clerics.

During Saturday’s protests, police beat demonstrators and used water cannons and tear gas to clear the streets in Tehran, where only several thousand people gathered compared with tens of thousands earlier on the week.

Dozens of protestors were wounded and treated at the Imam Khomeini hospital a day after Ayatollah Khamenei warned opposition leaders to end the protests. One opposition leader said that a planned rally for Saturday had been cancelled because of a lack of permit, and an ally of Moussavi urged supporters not to march on Sunday.