Eurovision in Gaza's shadow as Israel competes in final

The Eurovision Song Contest final gets underway in Sweden's Malmo on Saturday with thousands of protesters expected to culminate a week of tensions surrounding Israel's participation during the Gaza war.

Israel ranks with Croatia and Switzerland as one of the bookmakers' favourites to succeed Sweden and take home the colourful and kitschy competition watched by more than a hundred million people.

Police say up to 20,000 demonstrators are expected to rally against Israel's participation in Malmo, whose more than 360,000 inhabitants represent 186 nationalities, many from the Middle East.

Sweden's third-largest city is also expecting up to 100,000 fans from 90 countries, on the 50th anniversary of iconic pop group ABBA's Eurovision win with "Waterloo".

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which oversees the event, confirmed in March the participation of Israel's contestant Eden Golan, despite calls for her exclusion from thousands of musicians around the world.

More recently, nine of the acts, seven of whom are finalists, have called for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza.

The war started with Hamas's unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Hamas also seized hostages, of whom Israel estimates 128 remain in Gaza, including 36 who the military says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,943 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.


Golan's song is an adaptation of an earlier version named "October Rain", which she modified after organisers deemed it too political...

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