— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) June 8, 2018
Israel sent special drones with dangling threads with razors. So Palestinians upped their game and used a fishnet with the kyte. This very kite dropped two Israeli drones. One was taken by the kite flyers. #GreatReturnMarch pic.twitter.com/39PaLSZ3kR
— #GreatReturnMarch (@ThisIsGaZa) June 8, 2018
On June 8, Gazan youth enjoyed a thrilling, joyous moment of excitement and triumph, when a Palestinian kite with an attached fishing net managed to catch and take down an Israeli army drone, like a futuristic “David vs. Goliath” tale with flying gadgetry.
Colorful kites decorated with Palestinian flags, slogans, and patterns have become a symbol of resistance in the face of overwhelming — and often deadly — Israeli military force and violent aggression, with children and youths gathering each Friday to fly what they call the “the new generation of F-16”, a reference to the Israeli warplanes frequently seen in the skies over the coastal enclave.
Some with flaming tails have also been flown towards Israeli territory, causing several fires in farmlands and forests adjacent to Gaza and prompting Israeli officials to launch a media propaganda campaign against “Hamas terror-kites” and warn that kite fliers risk being targeted by snipers.
Israeli forces have killed at least 132 people and wounded thousands of unarmed, nonviolent demonstrators with live ammunition rounds since the “Great March of Return” protests began at the end of March, according to figures released by Gaza’s health ministry. Middle East Eye reporters spoke to Palestinians who confirmed that kite fliers were already among those being targeted by the IDF.
Israeli forces were also targeting kites with drone-fired missiles, as well as deploying racer drones flown by amateurs to intercept the kites. But now the kite fliers have succeeded in catching one of their drones, by just floating fishing nets into the air.
“It is always exciting to challenge Israel’s weapons with the very simple resources we have,” said “Murad al-Zweiri,” a 27-year-old who flew the first kite into Israeli territory on the first day of protests. His real name is being withheld for security reasons.
“We downed an Israeli drone last Friday and we will keep doing it as long as the Israeli army uses drones and live ammunition against unarmed protesters. It is the least thing we can do to face all this violence.”
A Symbol of Peace
Others said they considered the kites to be a “symbol of peace and freedom” inspired by the kites that children in Gaza like to fly during trips to the beach.
Abed Marwan, 25, said many children and youths were spending their summer at protest camps, rather than going to the beach.
“Even if they cause damage to lands already taken by force from Palestinians, the kites are still a symbol of peace and freedom. At least they do not target or kill anyone and we are not aiming at this,” he said.
“I can tell you Palestinian youth are capable of creating other tools that would cause much more damage and losses to Israeli settlements, but they are not willing to turn the protests into violent clashes.”
Marwan said he had witnessed Israeli snipers targeting young kite fliers during the protests.
“My friend was standing just in front of me when he was directly shot in the leg while flying a burning kite,” he said. “Can you imagine? They have faced a kite with an exploding bullet that will probably cause him a long-term disability.”
Saleh Ahmed, 23, who was injured twice within one week during the protests, told MEE Israeli snipers had targeted him for flying kites near the border fence.
“The first time I got injured, I was hundreds of metres away from the fence, but I was flying a flaming kite when an Israeli sniper shot me directly in the leg,” Ahmed said.
“The next Friday, my leg was wrapped so I could not fly any kites. I just performed the Friday prayers and stood there to watch the protesters, when I got shot again in my other leg.”
Ahmed, who still attends the protests despite his injuries, said Israeli forces had also taken photos of kite fliers so “they can easily target them later”.
‘The result is always the same’
Warda al-Zebda, a 37-year-old woman who participates frequently in the protests, told MEE when she flies kites, she felt free and a connection to her original hometown, now inside Israel, from which she was expelled and continuously denied the universal right of return guaranteed to all refugees by the United Nations.
“The reason why these youth and children moved from flying harmless kites to burning ones is the way Israeli forces responded since day one,” Zebda declared.
“People here have become aware that whether they use peaceful methods or not, they will always be faced with excessive force and showered with live ammunition; the result is always the same.”
“We [Palestinians] have this thing that I did not find in any other place in the world. The more they try to oppress us, the stronger and more stubborn we get,” added Zebda.
According to a report in Haaretz last week, Israel has estimated the cost of fires caused by kites at $1.4 million and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee earlier this month approved a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deduct Palestinian Authority funds as “compensation payments”.
But Anas Moin, a 24-year-old journalist, said the decision would not affect Palestinians living in the strip “since they already do not receive such funds”.
The PA has imposed its own punitive sanctions on Gaza since Hamas took control of the strip in 2007, prompting protests this week in Ramallah in the West Bank.
“People here have been enduring political and economic sanctions imposed by all sides for the past eleven years. Do you think one more decision will manage to stop them now?” he asked.
“Although they do cause some damage to the occupied farmlands, the losses caused by the flaming kites cannot be compared with the Israeli forces’ internationally prohibited weapons, used against thousands of unarmed protesters for merely demanding their basic rights.”
For children in Gaza, flying kites is an innocent, youthful summer game that could cost them their lives.
But Ahmed Yassin, 13, refuses to allow the real, mortal threat of exploding IDF sniper bullets to keep him from doing what he enjoys so much, and excitedly went every day to the protest camps to create new kites.
“I’ve come with my brothers and cousins every day since the beginning of the protests. We create colourful kites with the Palestinian flag on them, and we sometimes add a flaming tail,” he said.
“I have many friends who were shot and injured while they were flying kites, but we will not stop. This has become my favorite activity for the past two months. Something from Gaza at least can finally cross the borders.”
* This article was expanded from original source by Middle East Eye.