Drones above Gaza – We Are Not Numbers
Always, always, there is the buzzing.
The incessant whine of drones hovers over Gaza skies 24 hours a day, every day.
Drones are not new to Gazans. They have been routinely used by the IDF, or as I call them, the IOF — Israeli Occupation Forces — to monitor everyday life here for many years. I had become almost accustomed to their irritating sound, like a mosquito in my ear. But that was before.
Since Israel imposed the lockdown after October 7, drones have proliferated in deadly swarms over our heads. Now they sound more like buzz-saws or motorcycles. The constant noise causes headaches, irritability, and insomnia, and can literally drive one mad.
During the day, the drones look like two black or brown triangles wandering the sky together. Sometimes they appear very small, but even these tiny distant triangles can end your life in seconds. Unlike war planes that loudly announce themselves, when a drone strikes, you don’t know it’s coming. Suddenly something — it could be you — explodes. Sometimes they look like slow-flying birds. You wish they were birds. Even the most dangerous birds are more merciful.
We recently confirmed that highly sophisticated U.S. drones, operated by U.S. military personnel, now circle over Gaza. The U.S. claims they are unarmed, meant to locate hostages and prevent further escalation between Israel and Hamas. But for Palestinians here, it feels like these drones are protecting Israel as it continues the genocide of our people.
A family conversation
“Whenever I hear a drone getting close, I just feel so scared,” says my beloved mother. “My heart starts beating rapidly and my body feels cold. I wonder who it will shoot. I’m always terrified it’s one of my children or relatives.”
“I remember I couldn’t study many times due to the buzzing of drones,” adds my cousin, Hala. “It provokes me a lot, especially during the night, I hope one day they leave our sky,”
“Somehow, I manage to handle the noise,” cousin Nada injects. “When I traveled to Egypt as a child, the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t hearing the noisy drones. Now that I’m older, I’m okay with the noise and their presence, I got used to it. What I am not okay with is the killing, the bombing.”
“The drones and warplanes are beautiful at night, sparkling and shining like stars and sometimes lit up orange, but what they do is very ugly,” says cousin Mohammed “I hope they don’t kill me.”
Whenever the drones come close and the sound intensifies, Mohammed tells me he’s scared. I lie to him: “When the noise gets super loud, we should feel reassured we won’t be bombed. It’s loud because when they are right above us, drones and planes shoot at what’s in front of them, not what’s directly below.”
It’s something I’ve been telling myself since I was a child, although now it makes me feel guilty as I say it to Mohammed, because I know it’s not true. If ever a drone strikes, he’ll never know it’s coming.
Our perilous sky
How contradictory is our planet’s sky! It hosts such beautiful birds and passenger planes to take us around the world, but it’s also the stage for the world’s deadliest weapons. I wonder, is Venus’ sky more merciful? Where, under this perilous sky, can Palestinians go?
PS Fellow WANNer Hossam Wail Abo-Shammallah has recorded a video of the drone sound. Listen to it through your headphones, and imagine you can never take them off.