Crowds of supporters greet the boat Handala in Cork (Cobh) harbour. Palestinian and other flags flying.

Freedom Flotilla boat Handala visits Cobh on its way to Gaza

A boat named Handala [1], part of the Freedom Flotilla sailing to Gaza, is due to arrive in Cork Harbour this weekend, where it will berth at Kennedy Pier in Cobh, County Cork. After visiting various ports across Europe, the Freedom Flotilla will sail to Gaza where it will physically challenge Israel’s illegal maritime blockade of Gaza using non-violent tactics. The Freedom Flotilla is a project of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition [2], which is composed of civil society organisations and grassroots groups from many countries, and which has been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza since 2011. By visiting ports across Europe, the Freedom Flotilla is aiming to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people and to enlist support from people along the way who can put pressure on their governments to demand a permanent ceasefire and help ensure self-determination and the fulfilment of all human rights for Palestinian people.

A variety of activities and events, to welcome the Handala to Cobh and build local solidarity with the Palestinian people, will take place from 7th to 10th June, organised by a committee of local Cobh activists and supported by the Cork, Cobh and Midleton Palestine solidarity campaigns. These events include musical performances, vigils and family events, with activities for children and a special send-off for the Handala on Monday, when local groups will gather in Cobh to wave the boat off. Performers who will be contributing to the events include singers such as John Spillane and comedian Maeve Higgins. A full schedule of these activities can be viewed here [3].

Events across the weekend will feature speakers, including Senator Frances Black, who will speak about the Occupied Territories Bill, and several speakers who are currently sailing onboard or involved in the Flotilla; these include Irish human rights campaigner Caoimhe Butterly, who was shot by an Israeli soldier while trying to shield Palestinian children from gunfire in 2002, Irish-Brazilian filmmaker, photographer and reporter Fellipe Lopes, and Canadian John Turnbull, who in 2018 was captaining a peaceful Freedom Flotilla vessel when Israel’s navy hijacked it in international waters and kidnapped its passengers and crew.

Gillian Carney, of the Cobh – Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh organising Committee said:
“I think Cobh is a beautiful location to welcome Handala and has lots of maritime history. One of the other Freedom Flotilla boats, Akdeniz, which was previously named The Connaught, was actually built in Cobh in Verolme Dockyard. Cobh is my home town and I’m incredibly proud of the dedication of my local Cobh Palestine Solidarity Campaign with the support of Midleton and Cork Palestine solidarity campaigns in making this weekend so vibrant and welcoming. It’s been a huge team effort with so many volunteering skills, time and energy to ensure it a beautiful, inclusive and community-based weekend that will hopefully raise awareness around the Freedom Flotilla but also strengthen and energise the movement here in Ireland for Palestinian justice, self-determination and liberation.”

Ann Wright, Freedom Flotilla Coalition member and retired US army colonel and former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq, said:
“The Gaza Flotilla’s objective is to bring international attention to the illegal Israeli naval blockade of Gaza by sailing ships to try to break the blockade. With the Israeli genocide and blocking all access to Gaza from land, sea and air, the flotilla is an important symbol of outrage of citizens around the world to the inaction of governments to bring an end to Israeli’s impunity in conducting the 8-month genocide.”
Tom O’Halloran, Cork Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh Organising Committee, said:
“This weekend will bring a growing community of like-minded individuals together from diverse backgrounds to show much-needed solidarity and support for the Palestinian people. Our shared humanity, along with our shared history of colonisation, is what makes events like these so relevant in the face of injustice, destruction and dehumanisation of our friends in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American Freedom Flotilla Coalition Organiser and human rights attorney, said:
“Palestinians have long felt abandoned by the international community, which has allowed Israel to pillage our land and occupy us and kill us for decades without consequence. It’s that impunity that’s brought us to today, where Israel feels that it can carry out a live-stream genocide and get away with it. But while our governments have failed to live up to their obligations under international law, it’s important to assert that people of the world will not stay silent. More than ever, while Palestinians are trying to survive this genocide, it’s vital that the actions of global civil society reach Palestinians so they know that they are not alone. Irish participation in the Freedom Flotilla and the efforts to break the siege of Gaza is incredibly meaningful because, despite Israel’s strategy of isolating the Palestinian people, we have always felt the love and affinity of the Irish. The Flotilla is not about charity but about standing up to Israel’s aggression and refusing to abide by its illegal policies. The Flotilla is about human solidarity and people-power over military might, and that is a force to be reckoned with.”

Youssef Samour, a Palestinian living in New Zealand-Aotearoa who is a member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, said:
“I’m a Palestinian that has never been to Palestine, like many third-generation refugees living in the diaspora. I was born in the UAE and currently reside in New Zealand, where I’ve now lived over half my life. I took part in the 2018 Freedom Flotilla Coalition mission, and was a crew member on board the Swedish sailing yacht Freedom from Amsterdam through to Sicily. I was living in Dubai at the time, when I had felt that the general perspective on the Palestinian cause was becoming a sense of numbing acceptance of the status quo, as with many issues that may feel out of one’s control, about which I try to constantly remind myself and those around me that we cannot hope to bring about change without action, using our skills and tools to collectively contribute, influence and impact. The sea is my lifelong love and is where I spend most, if not all, of my free time. So it was fairly organic for me to use my maritime experience and affinity with the sea for this just cause that is so deeply rooted in me. The reason I took part in 2018 is the same reason I am joining Handala on the 2024 mission shortly. I’ve been following the Freedom Flotilla Coalition for a number of years now and hold a great deal of respect for the people involved and what has been achieved over the years. The Freedom Flotilla and BDS movements have together spread waves of global awareness, solidarity and much-needed support to Palestine – all of which are crucial to the ultimate goal of the liberation of the Palestinian people from oppression and occupation.”


For media requests please contact: Fellipe Lopes FFC Press and Media Officer: + 353 89 981 6064 – [email protected]

For more information, press enquiries and updates on the exact arrival time of the Handala into Cobh, please contact:

Gillian Carney: Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh Organising Committee member and member of Cobh and Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaigns: Mobile: 0879775323

Tom O’Halloran: Gaza Freedom Flotilla Cobh Organising Committee member and member of Cork Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Mobile: 086 864 3546


[1]The boat is named Handala after Handala, a Palestinian refugee child cartoon character by Naji Al-Ali, widely recognised throughout Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora, who represents Palestinian people, especially children, and their longing to return to a free Palestine. Handala remains a potent symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and self-determination. Since more than two thirds of the people in Gaza are Palestinian refugees, and approximately half of Gaza’s inhabitants are children. Handala is an appropriate name for the Flotilla’s mission: For the Children of Gaza. See more here:

[2] For more information about the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, see:

[3] See a full schedule for activities taking place in Cobh from 7th to 10th June, see here. Please note that the exact arrival time of the Handala into Cobh will depend on sailing times.