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Aid ship for Gaza docks in Sweden ahead of Eurovision: AFP

By AFP

May 8, 2024 11:25 PM


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A ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza was docked in Sweden on Wednesday in protest over Israel's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, an AFP journalist saw.

This year's Eurovision opened in the southern city of Malmo on Tuesday, but the war in Gaza is looming over the festivities.

The ship, "Handala", arrived in the port city ahead of the song contest to show solidarity with the 30,000 or so demonstrators due to protest against Israel's participation on Thursday.

The war was sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 128 of them remain in Gaza including 36 who officials say are dead.

Israel in response vowed to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,844 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

On board the vessel, run by the NGO Ship to Gaza, are humanitarian supplies that the organisation hopes to deliver to the population in Gaza.

"They are welcome because they will sail to Gaza and are in solidarity with the Palestinian people who are suffering from the occupation and genocide in Gaza," said Yomn Kadoura, a spokesperson for a campaign against Israeli participation in Eurovision.

Jeannette Escanilla, president of Ship to Gaza Sweden, told AFP that "Sweden has not been able to prevent Israel's participation. We are here to show our support and to show that we are on the side of the Palestinians."

She added: "We will go to Gaza to try to break the blockade."

Around 400 people gathered to welcome the vessel while under a heavy presence of plainclothes police officers, according to the AFP journalist.

Police from all over Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway, have been recruited to reinforce local forces and provide security for the event.

Some members of the Jewish community are planning to leave Malmo for the weekend.

The 68th edition of the annual music competition has been marked by demonstrations against the war in Gaza.

Since the beginning of the year, several petitions have demanded Israel's exclusion.


AFP


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