Khader Adnan, a leader of the Islamic Jihad resistance group, helped introduce the practice of protracted hunger strikes by individual prisoners as a form of protest against Israel’s mass detention of Palestinians without charge. On Tuesday, the 45-year-old became the first long-term hunger striker to die in Israeli custody.
In response to his death, Palestinian fighters in Gaza fired 22 rockets toward populated areas in southern Israel, seriously wounding a 25-year-old man and moderately wounding two others in Sderot, Israelis authorities said, identifying all three as foreigners.
“This is an initial response to this heinous crime that will trigger reactions from our people,” a coalition of Gaza-based Palestinian resistance groups, led by the enclave’s Hamas leaders, said.
Palestinians called for a general strike in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip and protesters rushed to Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied territory, slinging stones at Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds gathered at the northern entrance to the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Islamic Jihad said that its “fight continues and will not stop.”
Dawood Shahab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, called Adnan’s death “a full-fledged crime, for which the Israeli occupation bears full and direct responsibility.”
Crime against humanity
Iran on Tuesday slammed Israeli mistreatment of Adnan as a crime against humanity.
“The way the Israeli regime detained and its inhumane treatment of this Palestinian hunger striker are a clear example of the inhumane and violent behavior the Israeli regime has, in an organized and extensive manner, shown against the Palestinian nation and fighters over the past seven decades,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.
For administrative detainees, hunger strikes are often the last recourse. Several have staged hunger strikes lasting several months, often becoming dangerously ill. Previous Israeli cabinets have at times conceded to some of their demands to avoid deaths in custody.
This time, warnings about Adnan’s deteriorating health were ignored, said an advocacy group.
Adnan was no stranger to Israel’s prisons. His death came during his 13th stint in Israeli custody, with nearly eight years of his life spent behind bars.
Born in the town of Arraba, near Jenin in the north of the occupied West Bank in 1978, Adnan, become involved with Islamic Jihad while studying mathematics at Birzeit University in the late 1990s.
He spent the following two and a half decades in and out of Israeli custody, periods of incarceration marked by a string of high-profile hunger strikes – at least five, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said.
In the West Bank, Mohammed Shtayyeh, the prime minister of the Palestinian self-rule government also held Israel responsible. He portrayed Adnan’s death as “premeditated assassination by refusing his request for his release, neglecting him medically, and keeping him in his cell despite the seriousness of his health condition.”
Over the past decade, Adnan became a household name in the Palestinian territories, as a powerful symbol of resistance to Israel’s open-ended occupation, now in its 56th year.
The number of administrative detainees has grown in the past year as Israel has carried out almost nightly arrest raids in the West Bank in the wake of a string of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel in early 2022.