Tehran, Sep 28 (AFP) An Iranian mayor has apologised for a billboard which mistakenly featured Israeli soldiers although it was meant to mark the Iran-Iraq war, the online conservative news agency Tasnim reported Friday. Also Read - 'US Has Lost Best Opportunity to Lift Sanctions on Iran,' Says President Rouhani

“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. Also Read - Not Only Cow Urine, World is Falling Prey to Methanol, Volcanic Ash to Fight Coronavirus

But the shot was actually a photoshopped picture of Israel Defense Forces, according to Tasnim, with a female soldier from the original picture having been cropped out. Also Read - With Death Toll Over 1500, Iran Blames US For Spreading Coronavirus

The banner was pulled down from the southwestern city 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. An estimated 680,000 people died.

“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 conservative news agency Fars.

Iranian social media was abuzz with heated reactions to the 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.” (AFP) SMJ SMJ

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.