Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened Israel on Friday, saying the Islamic Republic will help any nation or group that confronts the Jewish State, The Associated Press reported.

In remarks to worshippers during Friday prayers in Tehran which were broadcast on state TV, Khamenei said Iran would continue its nuclear program and warned that any military strike by the U.S. would only make Iran stronger.

He affirmed that Iran had provided assistance to terror groups Hizbullah and Hamas, AP reported.

“We have intervened in anti-Israel matters, and it brought victory in the 33-day war by Hizbullah against Israel in 2006, and in the 22-day war” between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, Khamenei was quoted as having said.

He added, “From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help. We have no fear expressing this.”

Khamenei said Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut,” and added that the U.S. would suffer defeat and lose standing in the region if it decides to use military force to stop the country’s nuclear program.

“Iran will not withdraw. Then what happens?” he said. “In conclusion, the west’s hegemony and threats will be discredited. The hegemony of Iran will be promoted. In fact, this will be in our service.”

Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah and stressed the "inspiring role that the Palestinian people's resistance has played in provoking Muslim nations to stand against their tyrannical rulers."

During the meeting he referred to the ongoing "Islamic Awakening" in the region saying "Palestinians' resistance against occupying force of Zionist regime has been always inspiring for the Muslim nations."

Meanwhile, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AP on Friday he was not surprised by Khamenei's remarks.

“It’s the same kind of hate speech that we’ve been seeing from Iran for many years now,” Palmor said.

On Thursday it was reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is "a strong likelihood" that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.

The Washington Post's David Ignatius reported about Panetta’s concerns in his column in the paper, saying Israel believes that after this time, Iran will have entered a “zone of immunity” that will enable it to build a nuclear bomb at its leisure, Ignatius wrote.

"Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily," explained Ignatius. The U.S., however, does not intend to hit Iran until it has intelligence that Iran is actually building a bomb, and "Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action..."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak used the same words in his speech at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday.

"Today, unlike the past, the world has no doubt that the military nuclear program is steadily nearing ripeness and is about to enter the 'immunity zone,'” Barak said. “From that point on, the Iranian regime will be able to act to complete the program, with no effective disturbance and a time that is convenient for it."

Panetta would not deny the report in the Washington Post and said, “I consider what I think and what I see about the region as belonging to me and not to anyone else.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)