Eurovision 2024: Thousands of pro-Palestine protesters march in Malmo ahead of semi-final

Thousands of pro-Palestine demonstrators joined a protest in Malmo, Sweden on Thursday against Israel's competing in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Protesters waving green, white, black and red Palestinian flags packed the historic Stortorget square near Malmo's 16th-century town hall before a planned march through the city for a rally in a park several miles from the Eurovision venue.

Police estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 people took part. Among those in the crowd was Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The march took place at the same time as Israel's entrant - 20-year-old Eden Golan - was taking part in the final dress rehearsal for the second Eurovision semi-finals, in the Malmo arena.

During the march - which included families with young children, and people with dogs and bicycles - smoke canisters in the colours of the Palestinian flag were set off, with some protesters carrying signs displaying images of Gaza civilians who have been injured amid the Hamas-Israel conflict.

There was also a banner done in the style of Eurovision with the word "genocide" on it - an accusation vigorously denied by Israel amid the war with Hamas.

Security in Malmo is high, and extra police have been drafted in from neighbouring Denmark and Norway.

During an earlier rehearsal on Tuesday, Golan was met with boos and cries of "Free Palestine," and an audience member appeared to have a Palestinian flag removed from them in the auditorium.

The EBU has said only flags that represent countries taking part, and the rainbow flag, can be brought to the event.

They have said they will remove any other "flags, symbols, clothing, items and banners being used for the likely purpose of instrumentalising the TV shows".

The 20-year-old singer performed her song Hurricane while flanked by five backing dancers and centred around a large wheel-like prop in the centre of the stage.

Earlier lyric changes

The song has been tweaked three times, after an initial version titled October Rain was ruled too political by the EBU who believed some lyrics referred to the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel.

Some still believe that some lyrics in the current song - including "Dancin' in the storm… I'm still broken from this hurricane," still refer to attacks which killed over 1,000 people and resulted in hundreds of hostages being taken.

In the run-up to the competition - which is the world's largest live music event - there have been calls for Israel to be banned over their ongoing ground offensive in Gaza.

However, the EBU - which says it is an apolitical organisation - has ruled that Israel can take part as they say it has not broken any broadcasting rules.

The EBU has also condemned harassment and abuse of artists competing in the show and said they form no part of the decision-making process. As it stands no performer has withdrawn from the contest.

More than 34,000 people have been killed, and over 77,000 have been injured in Gaza since the conflict began, according to Gaza's Hamas-led health ministry.

The second-semi finals

The run-through came ahead of the second semi-final this evening, which will choose the final 10 acts to go into the Grand Final.

Other acts taking part in the semi-final tonight include Norway's Gate, San Marino's band Megara, Switzerland's Nemo and Danish entrant Saba, - all of whom called for a ceasefire in Gaza and the "safe return" of Israeli hostages in a joint statement in March.

The UK's act, Olly Alexander, and Ireland's Bambie Thug were also part of the joint statement. Both performed in the first semi-final on Tuesday and will be performing in the final.

The artists rejected calls from Palestinian groups to boycott the music contest, saying they "firmly believe in the unifying power of music".

Golan, who has been performing since she was nine years old, left Israel when she was six to live in Russia with her family, but returned when she was 18.

She told ITV News she could not have asked "for a better year to be representing my country" earlier this week.

The Grand Final will see 26 countries battle it out on Saturday night.

Sky News will be in Malmo with updates, a live blog, and all the biggest news from the contest as it happens.