Publikation International / Transnational - War / Peace - North Africa Sleepless in Gaza

Israeli drone war on the Gaza Strip. By Dr. Atef Abu Saif, Al-Azhar University in Gaza.



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Atef Abu Saif,


März 2014


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A group of young boys and girls gathered in Al-Kattiba Square, west of Gaza City, using large pieces of wood and formed the word “LEAVE,” in hopes that the drone hovering over the skies of Gaza will read it. One of the participants said that they wish that they can live without the zanana, so at least they can sleep.1 Palestinians in Gaza call the Israeli drones in the sky “zanana,” meaning a noise maker or buzz. Sometimes they call it the airplane of death. Among the most distinctive elements of the Israel occupation of Gaza is the embrace of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.

The growing use of drone strikes in Gaza makes it necessary to study the impact of these strikes on the lives of the people there. The drone has become a part of the everyday life of Gazans. They wake up in the morning to its noise, and it’s the same noise they hear while trying to sleep. It is always there, to the extent that one might even momentarily forget it is there. Young activists make fun of the situation by inventing names of movies with the word drone,2 such as “Drones In Black,” “A Drone to Remember,” “Drone and Prejudice,” “Gone with the Drones,” “Honey I Blew Up Gaza,” “When Gaza Met Zanana,” “Love in the Time of the Drones,” “Sleepless in Gaza,” “Harry Potter and the Deadly Drones,” “Gazans of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Drone,” “Israeli Mission Impossible IV: Erase Gaza,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Drone.”

Drones are part of a wider Israeli intelligence and remote operating system which includes direct attacking capacities. Drones lay at the heart of this system. They are the most precious and effective devise in the system. Drones have two actual and direct military benefits. First, they conduct reconnaissance and monitoring functions. Second, they engage in heavy missile strikes. In other words, they are the new face of the Israeli occupation.

Since their first use in 2000, drones have led to the death of hundreds of Palestinians and have injured thousands more. In addition, they have directly negatively impacted Palestinian psychological and social life, as well as causing a grossly negative impact on education. While in comparison, the Israeli use of drones to target individuals, public premises, academic institutions, and schools are more intensified than its use in any other place by any other army. Most studies do not include the Israeli use of drones against the Palestinians in their surveys. They only refer to the fact that Israel manufactures drones and uses them, while the consequences of using drones day and night in Gaza are understudied and nearly absent in the field of drones’ studies. In numbers, civilians killed or injured by drones during the frequent Israeli offensives against Gaza are very high. Moreover, drones in Gaza have a different impact on the lives of the people which have not been properly studied. However, the most striking aspect of the Israeli usage of drones in Gaza is how drones are used to intensify the occupation, to make it cheaper and more profitable as well.

This report seeks to shed light on the usage of drones in Gaza through looking into how Israel uses drones to dominate the Palestinian people in Gaza and to enhance its grip on their daily life. It elaborates on the capabilities of Israel drones in general. The report as well depicts the situation in Gaza in the context of Israeli occupation to the coastal strip. It views the impact of drones in Gaza through five main issues. First, it discusses the victims resulting from the strikes by drones and argues that the majority of those are civilians. Then it analyzes the psychological and mental, social, educational, and cultural impacts of drones on Gazan society. After that, the report moves to the external aspects of droning Gaza, namely, how
Israel uses Gaza as a laboratory for developing these death machines to advance the marketing of its drones, and the obligations of the international community in light of the Israeli violations of human rights. A list of recommendations is provided in the conclusion.

Table of contents:

  • General View
  • Methodology
  • Drones: A Controversial War Weapon
  • Israel: A Leading Arms and Drone Exporter
  • The Gaza Strip: Nearly a Half Century of Israeli Occupation
  • Israel and Gaza: Reinventing the Occupation
  • Droning Gaza: A Videogame
  • Civilian Loss of Life Due to Drone Attacks
  • The Differentiation between Civilian and Combatant
  • The Psychological Impact of Drones: Killing the Appetite to Live
  • The Social Impact: Not Only Torn Bodies, but Torn Society
  • The Impact on Education: The Drone is in the Textbook
  • Impact on Culture and Communications
  • Gaza: A Laboratory for Developing Death Machines
  • Marketing Death
  • Assassinating Human Rights
  • Recommendations
  • Arabic Summary

Dr. Atef Abu Saif is a current professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. He is also the editor-in-chief of Seyasat Magazine in
Ramallah, and a well known writer and political analyst.

The production of this paper has been supported by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Regional Office Palestine.

The content of this paper is the sole responsibility of the author and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Regional Office Palestine.

Cover photo: Hatem Musa