Gaza 'Freedom Flotilla' blocked in Turkey

AFP , Saturday 27 Apr 2024

A "Freedom Flotilla" aimed at delivering aid to Gaza was blocked in Turkey Saturday after being denied use of two of its ships, which organisers blame on Israeli pressure.

Freedom Flotilla
File photo: The Akdeniz RoRo, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, waits to depart from the Tuzla seaport, near Istanbul. AFP


The coalition of NGOs and other associations said it was unable to set sail after the West African country of Guinea-Bissau withdrew its flagged vessels.

"Sadly, Guinea-Bissau has allowed itself to become complicit in Israel's deliberate starvation, illegal siege and genocide of Palestinians in Gaza," the Freedom Flotilla Coalition said.

"The Guinea-Bissau International Ships Registry (GBISR), in a blatantly political move, informed the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of the Freedom Flotilla's ships, one of which is our cargo ship, already loaded with over 5,000 tons of life-saving aid," their statement said

The group said the Guinea-Bissau authorities made several "extraordinary" requests for information including destinations, potential additional port calls, cargo manifest, and estimated arrival dates and times.

"Normally, national flagging authorities concern themselves only with safety and related standards on vessels bearing their flag," it said, equating it to being asked about destinations when registering a car.

At an Istanbul press conference, about 280 volunteers -- activists, lawyers and doctors -- who had hoped to join the ships shouted slogans including "Flag the flotilla", "We will sail" and "Free Palestine".

Three of the flotilla's ships have been docked for a week at the port of Tuzla, south of Istanbul. They had planned to set sail Friday.

Turkish authorities and state media, who have organised 13 humanitarian flights and nine boats to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, have been silent about the flotilla.

In 2010, a previous "Freedom Flotilla" set off from the southern Turkish city of Antalya, leading to a deadly episode that soured relations between Turkey and Israel after Israeli military forces attacked one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, killing 10 people and wounding 28 others aboard.

UN agencies have warned that maritime deliveries alone cannot deliver sufficient aid to ward off the threat of famine in Gaza and have called on Israel to lift its siege and open all land crossings into the territory.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Health warned of the spread of diseases due to sewage overflows, the accumulation of waste in streets and displaced persons camps, and the spread of insects in the besieged territory.

“Because of the closure of the public health laboratory and the inability to test drinking water, all citizens of the Gaza Strip are drinking unsafe water that puts their lives at risk,” the ministry said in a statement.

It attributed this to Israel’s refusal to allow the use of chlorine or any alternative for treating drinking water.

Israel has killed at least 34,388 people, mostly women and children, since October 7, according to the health ministry.

Israel's siege has pushed more than half of the population to the brink of famine, with people in north Gaza already living under "famine-like conditions."

*This story has been edited by Ahram Online

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