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Gaza aid flotilla delayed after Guinea Bissau removes flag due to Israel pressure: Activists

The Akdeniz RoRo, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, is loaded with goods as it is anchored in Tuzla seaport, near Istanbul, Turkey, on April 19, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Activists say a humanitarian aid flotilla aiming to set off from Turkey to deliver urgent aid to the besieged Gaza Strip has been further delayed after Guinea Bissau removed its flag from two vessels under the Israeli regime’s pressure.

Activist group Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which is comprised of human rights activists, including lawyers, doctors and nurses who came together to deliver aid directly to Gaza, announced over the weekend that the convoy of vessels was unable to set sail over the past few days after the West African country of Guinea Bissau withdrew its flag from the vessels.

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Ships Registry (GBISR), in a blatantly political move, informed the Freedom Flotilla Coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of the Freedom Flotilla's ships, one of which is our cargo ship, already loaded with over 5,000 tons of life-saving aid,” the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

The move came after Guinea Bissau authorities apparently had been making several “unusual and political” requests for sensitive information about destinations, estimated arrival dates and times, cargo manifest and potential additional port calls.

 According to the Gaza aid flotilla’s organizers, the reason for the withdrawal of the vessels and subsequent delay of the flotilla’s schedule is directly a result of pressure from Israel and the United States.

“Normally, national flagging authorities concern themselves only with safety and related standards on vessels bearing their flag,” the coalition said.

The three-strong flotilla had been due to sail on Friday from ports in Turkey with more than 5,000 tons of aid on board.

The purpose of the flotilla is to “put the genocide in Gaza firmly on the agenda of international decision-makers and states, and to create a strong initiative to end the Israeli aggression and lift the embargo on the territory,” the activists had stated.

The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is the primary organizer of the civilian Freedom Flotilla Coalition.

Activists of 12 national human rights groups from various countries, including Germany, Malaysia, Palestine, Norway, Argentina, Spain, Canada, and South Africa, accompanied by journalists, will reportedly participate in the effort.

In 2010, a similar mission with ships carrying over 600 activists from more than 30 countries, gained worldwide attention after an Israeli raid on a flotilla that included a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, killed 10 people and sparked a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.

Israel waged its genocidal war on Gaza on October 7 after the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement carried out Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in retaliation for its intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

The Tel Aviv regime has so far killed at least 34,488 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured 77,643 others.

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