Drones in the Skies of Gaza

By Yousef Alhelou
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

The aerial Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have continued for the 10th day. 59 Palestinians have been killed so far. 17 of the victims are civilians, including 7 children. More than 140 Palestinians, including 18 children and 10 women, have been wounded by Israeli missiles.

Palestinian information minister Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi described Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip as “real war crimes that the world couldn’t ignore." He added, "The Israeli occupation forces have given themselves the right to indiscriminately kill and destroy everything that is Palestinian, be it a child, a woman, or an elderly person."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has said the air strikes in Gaza are a sign of Israel’s political and security crisis. "This campaign will fail because of the steadfastness of the Palestinian people," he predicted. "This aggression will not achieve its aims but will lead to further deterioration with dangerous consequences." He added that the Israeli strikes were "part of an international and regional plan to change the political map in the Palestinian Authority." He also suggested that the attacks were aimed at weakening Hamas in favor of forces which would be more convenient for Israel.

Meanwhile, officials in the Palestinian Authority including President Mahmoud Abbas have called for a renewal of the ceasefire, but Israeli officials have made it clear that they would not accept the calls for now.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, have sent a barrage of rockets into southern Israel over the past 10 days. It has been an attempt to redirect the battle towards the Israeli occupation that aims to weaken Hamas and continues its attacks on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Hamas said.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested Cabinet Minister Wasfi Qabha, confiscating his computer and many documents. The arrest came two days after a sweep in which more than 30 Hamas politicians, legislators, local council members and mayors of Nablus and Qalqilya were arrested, including the education minister, Nasser Addin Ash-Sha’er.

For the 10th day of this offensive, residents of Gaza have got used to hearing the fearsome roar of Israeli F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters and the unmanned drones, officially called "unmanned aerial vehicles". The drones are used for reconnaissance and to attack targets with missiles; they are being used to take aerial photographs of the Palestinian targets and can provide accurate real time video pictures at very low cost and with low risk to human life. These drones are heard but hardly seen; they usually fly overhead too high to be spotted in great numbers, patrolling the ghostly skies of Gaza. These drones are considered to be the Israeli Army’s eyes in the skies of the Gaza Strip.

The people of Gaza call the unmanned drone in Arabic, "Zannanah", which means buzzing; they make a noise so loud you cannot forget it, like a swarm of wasps on a summer afternoon. Their buzzing engines warn Palestinian missile squads and projectile launchers that Big Brother has you in his sights, while also intimidating and maddening an entire population.

Gaza resident, Atef, 36, said, "When we hear F-16 fighter jets or Apache choppers, we hold our breath and our hearts start to beat quickly and we say, God knows what is the target that they are going to bomb!"

Basma, who lives to the east of Gaza City and is a mother of 4 children, said, "My children get scared whenever they hear the F-16 or Apache helicopters and when they hear the explosions they cry and shiver." Her husband Khalil said: "Last night they hit 10 locations belonging to the Executive Force across the Gaza Strip. The night before they bombed several money changer shops, a food storeroom, a brick factory and empty containers! They have run out of "legitimate" targets – this is according to what an Israeli army general who said his army really did not know what else to strike!"

Um Hamed, 46, said: "We live in misery; the Israelis use all their arsenal weapons including F-16s, Apaches, tanks, and drones against us. We the Palestinians are still living under the mercy of the Israeli occupation. We want to live in peace but we also want to feel that we are being treated as humans."

"Drones don’t leave the skies of Gaza," Fayez, 29, said. "They give out a noisy sound, and you can hear it clearly at night. If you don’t hear it and you want to check if there are drones in the sky, then switch on the satellite and you will notice disruption when using digital receivers."

-Yousef Alhelou is a freelance Palestinian journalist based in Gaza and a contributor to several media outlets. He can be contacted at ydamadan@hotmail.com

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