ISTANBUL, Apr 27 — A “Freedom Flotilla” aimed at delivering aid to Gaza was blocked in Turkey today after being denied use of two of its ships, which organisers blame on Israeli pressure.

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Ships Registry (GBISR), in a blatantly political move, informed the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of the Freedom Flotilla’s ships, one of which is our cargo ship, already loaded with over 5,000 tons of life-saving aid,”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

Turkish authorities and state media, who are generally keen to boast about the aid they have provided to Palestinian civilians in Gaza having organised 13 humanitarian flights and nine boats, 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, leaving 10 dead and 28 wounded 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 open up more border crossings for road convoys.

The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas’ October 7 attack that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,388 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. — AFP