New Freedom Flotilla boat launched in Norway

21 Apr
The new Freedom Flotilla boat, Handala.
Torstein Dahle from Ship to Gaza Norway addresses the dockside supporters during the naming and launching ceremony in Bryggen Harbour, Bergen, Norway on Tuesday.

Freedom Flotilla sails again For the Children of Gaza

On Tuesday a special naming ceremony was held on Bergen, Norway, for Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s new boat ‘Handala’, with the formal launch of its voyage to challenge and end the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Fauzia Hussain-Wiik, Bergen head of Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO), the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, launches the newly-named boat.
Arne Birger Heli, Captain of the ‘Handala’, ready to sail.

Arne Birger Heli, the Handala captain and representative of Ship to Gaza Norway, [plus] participants from on board the Al Awda/Kårstein, Freedom Flotilla 2018 vessel [attended the event, with participation from] a representative of fishers and farmers in Gaza.

Most of the West’s governments and many international corporations continue to be complicit in Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza, and so in response to calls from partners in Gaza the Freedom Flotilla sails again to challenge and end the blockade, calling for full freedom of movement for all Palestinians.

Legendary Palestinian cartoon character ‘Handala’

Our 2023 voyage focuses on the children of Gaza and we have chosen to name this boat Handala after the iconic 10-year-old Palestinian refugee child created by Naji Al-Ali in his cartoons about Palestinians’ longing for return to a free homeland (please see for more).

For additional information, please see or please contact us here

(Above is a Freedom Flotilla Coalition media statement 17/4/23)

Below is a report on the naming & launch event by Ship To Gaza Norway spokesperson Torstein Dahle:

Torstein Dahle at the naming and launch ceremony.

Tuesday April 18 was a wonderful day in Bergen. “Handala”s visit was a great success. There was a lot of people on the quay to welcome the boat. The weather was wonderful. We had two young and very skilled musicians playing for us, three appeals were made (me from Ship to Gaza, Sara Bell from the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Norway’s biggest trade union and actively supporting the Palestinians struggle), and Thomas Høiseth from the Norwegian Palestine Committee.

The programme on the quay ended with a naming ceremony for the boat. Fauzia Hussain-Wiik, Bergen head of Landsorganisasjonen i Norge (LO), the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, named the boat “Handala”.

Then there was a meeting in a nearby hotel, where the captain Arne Birger Heli spoke about the situation in Gaza and the work of Freedom Flotilla Coalition and Ship to Gaza Norway. He and Mikkel Grüner from Bergen were both on board the FFC boat “Al Awda” in 2018. The boat was brutally hijacked by Israeli marine in international waters, and everybody on board were prisoned for a few days. They told us about what happened, and the total lack of serious follow-up from the Norwegian authorities when a Norwegian boat was hijacked in violation of international law.

Mohammed Al-Bakri, from the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Gaza, spoke to the launch meeting via Team.

The most important part of the meeting was when Mohammed al-Bakri joined the meeting by Teams from Gaza. He reported about the situation in Gaza and the work that the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) does for Palestinian farmers in Gaza and the West Bank and for the fishers in Gaza. He emphasized strongly that the miserable living conditions in Gaza require a political solution, and that the humanitarian aid on which the people of Gaza are completely dependent, is ultimately only patching up some of the effects of Israel’s blockade and warfare, without doing anything about the the root causes. The assembly gave him a warm round of applause, and he will be asked to contribute later as well.

The most touching moment was before the programme on the quay started. A little Palestinian girl brought with her a gift for the boat. Captain Arne received it: It was a box with cakes for the journey, with her own drawing on top, wishing luck for the voyage to Gaza and demanding freedom for Gaza and Palestine. It was deeply inspiring and touching. (See photo above, shared with permission by the girl’s mother).

Ed: The Handala will visit an extensive number of ports throughout Europe and the UK in 2023 to raise awareness and solidarity for Palestine before sailing to the Mediterranean and Gaza in 2024. Follow her voyage on this site and

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