Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

Israel's Eurovision webcast hacked with animated blast images

The country's public broadcaster blamed Hamas for the cyber-intrusion

Protesters hold banners and placards as they take part in a demonstration calling for an end to Israel's policy towards Gaza and a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest as the first semi final of the contest begins in Tel Aviv, Israel May 14, 2019. Reuters
Protesters hold banners and placards as they take part in a demonstration calling for an end to Israel's policy towards Gaza and a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest as the first semi final of the contest begins in Tel Aviv, Israel May 14, 2019. Reuters

A hack blamed on Palestinian group Hamas interrupted an Israeli Eurovision broadcast on Tuesday with a message that Israel would be soon be targeted by missiles, accompanied by images of explosions.

The livestream of the song contest, being held in Israel after it won last year’s contest, on the website of Israeli public broadcaster Kan was replaced with a warning.

It showed a fake message from the Israeli military telling those watching that anyone within 1.2 kilometres of the Eurovision song contest venue in the coastal city of Tel Aviv to immediately take shelter because of imminent rocket attacks.

The national broadcaster blamed Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, for the hack. The group had no immediate comment.

After the 41-country competition kicked off on Tuesday with a first semi-final, Kan's webcast cut to animated satellite footage showing explosions in Tel Aviv set to a menacing soundtrack.

Kan played down the hack, noting that the evening ended without further incident as Greece, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus, Estonia, Czech Republic, Australia, Iceland, San Marino and Slovenia made it through to Saturday's finals.

"We know that at a certain stage there was an attempt, apparently by Hamas, to commandeer our digital broadcast," Kan CEO, Eldad Koblenz, told Israel's Army Radio.

"But I am happy to say that within a few minutes we managed to assume control over this phenomenon."

The controversial contest has irked Palestinians, who have called for Israel to stop using footage of Jerusalem in any broadcasts. The contest is being held in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv but Israel has used the contested city in its promotional footage, leading to accusations that it is trying to use the competition as propaganda.

Palestinian singers protested Israel's hosting of the Eurovision song contest on Tuesday by performing on the rubble of a building destroyed in recent fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Several dozen people attended the concert Tuesday alongside the ruins of the multistory Al Qamar building in Gaza City that Israeli planes leveled in an air strike during fighting with Gaza militants earlier this month.

Palestinians and its allied boycott movement have called for acts to cancel their performances. Pop singer Madonna said she would go ahead with her performance despite calls for her to pull out.

"I'll never stop playing music to suit someone's political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be," the singer said, in a statement carried by US media.

"My heart breaks every time I hear about the innocent lives that are lost in this region and the violence that is so often perpetuated to suit the political goals of people who benefit from this ancient conflict," said the legendary performer, whose string of hits in the 1980s and 90s included "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin".

"I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace."

Updated: May 15, 2019 01:57 PM

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