Palestinian Hunger Striker Khader Adnan Dies in Israeli Custody

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A high-profile Palestinian prisoner died in Israeli custody on Tuesday after a nearly three-month hunger strike, Israel’s prison service announced, at a time of already soaring tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Khader Adnan is the first Palestinian prisoner to die since Palestinian inmates began staging protracted hunger strikes about a decade ago. His death raises the potential for renewed violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups as violence surges in the West Bank.

Palestinians called for a general strike in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and protests were expected later in the day.

Palestinian prisoners have for years gone on lengthy hunger strikes to protest their detentions and to seek concessions from Israel. The tactic has become a last recourse for resistance against what Palestinians see as unjust incarcerations. The prisoners often become dangerously ill by refusing food but deaths are rare.

Palestinian prisoners are seen as national heroes and any perceived threat to them while in Israeli detention can touch off tensions or violence. Israel has often conceded to demands to release prisoners or shorten their sentences after they staged life-threatening hunger strikes.

Adnan, 45, began his strike shortly after being arrested on Feb.5.

He had gone on hunger strikes several times after previous arrests. That included a 55-day strike in 2015 to protest his arrest under so-called administrative detention, in which suspects are held indefinitely without charge or trial.

The death of Khader Adnan was swiftly followed by three rockets fired by Gaza militants, which “fell in open areas”, the Israeli army said. It reported no casualties.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh described the death of Adnan, who was arrested in the occupied West Bank, as a “deliberate assassination”.

“By rejecting his request for his release, neglecting him medically and keeping him in his cell, despite the seriousness of his health condition,” the premier said in a statement.

Adnan, 45, was the first Palestinian to die as a direct result of a hunger strike, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

Other Palestinian detainees have died “as a result of attempts to force feed them”, the advocacy group’s director, Qaddura Faris, said.

Palestinians shut shops as they observed a general strike in West Bank cities in response to Adnan’s death.

The Arab League said Adnan’s death was “the result of a policy of deliberate medical negligence, which is systematically practised by the Israeli occupation authorities.”

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said prison officials decided to close cells to “prevent riots”.

“The directive to the prisoner service is zero tolerance towards hunger strikes and disturbances in security prisons,” he said in a statement.

Family against Gaza rockets

Speaking on Tuesday, Mousa said: “We will only receive well-wishers, because this martyrdom is (like) a wedding, a (moment of) pride for us and a crown on our heads.”

But she cautioned militants against launching a violent response.

“We don’t want a drop of blood to be shed,” she told journalists in the family’s hometown of Arraba in the northern West Bank.

“We don’t want anyone to respond to the martyrdom. We don’t want someone to launch rockets and then (Israel) strikes Gaza,” she said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli army reported a shooting targeting Israeli vehicles near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.

In his final message, Adnan said he was “sending you these words as my flesh and fat has melted”.

“I pray that God accepts me as a faithful martyr,” he wrote, in a message published Monday by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel previously sent a medic to assess Adnan’s condition but said their appeals to Israeli authorities to have him transferred to hospital were refused.

“Only with the means available in a hospital could he be adequately monitored and his life could be saved in case of deterioration,” the group said on Tuesday. — Agencies

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Photo: Khader Adnan, the first Palestinian prisoner to die since Palestinian inmates began staging protracted hunger strikes about a decade ago. — Reuters

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