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Palestine at a standstill after hunger-striker Khader Adnan dies in Israeli prison

Jerusalem24Nadeen Alshaer and Noelle Mafarjeh – Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan has died in an Israeli prison after an 86-day hunger strike in protest at his detention, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said this morning.

He is the first Palestinian to have died from a hunger strike in Israeli custody since 1992. Six other Palestinian detainees died in similar circumstances in different mass hunger strikes in 1970, the early 1980s, and 1992, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society.

Haaretz reported this morning that the head of Israel’s Prison Services has ordered prisons to remain on high alert, “fearing the spread of prison riots in light of Adnan’s death could have widespread implications”.

Adnan was a prominent member of the Islamic Jihad movement and an inspiration to the Palestinian prisoner population. In an interview with The New York Times in 2022, Adnan said hunger strikes were a “crucial weapon” to resist Israeli occupation. “This is a weapon for our people. And we need to preserve the quality of this weapon.”

His death has sparked protests and confrontations between Palestinian youth and the Israeli military in different locations across the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem. At least five Palestinians have been injured by rubber-coated metal bullets near the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El north of Ramallah, according to the Ministry of Health.

A general strike is being observed throughout the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem and Gaza with all commercial and cultural institutions closed in mourning for Adnan.

A protest in Hebron condemning Khader Adnan’s death, 2 May 2023. [Credit: Wafa News Agency]
A photocopied poster announcing a strike for Khader Adnan hangs on a shuttered shopfront in Gaza, 2 May 2023. [Credit: Quds News Network]
Israeli soldiers shoot at protestors in Hebron following Khader Adnan’s death, 2 May 2023. [Credit: Quds News Network]

Fabricated charges

Adnan was arrested on 5 February at his home in the town of Arraba south of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, and began his hunger strike immediately.

This was Adnan’s sixth hunger strike protesting his detention, including a 55-day hunger strike in 2015 protesting his so-called administrative detention (arbitrary detention without charge or trial).

Adnan was successfully released after all five hunger strikes, in 2004, 2012, 2015, 2018, and 2021.

Milena Ansari, International Advocacy Officer at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, told Jerusalem24 that Adnan’s previous hunger strikes succeeded in capturing international solidarity to such a degree that when Israeli authorities arrested him in February this year, they didn’t request an administrative detention order but instead submitted “a very fake and very vague” set of two charges against him, of “belonging to a banned organization” and “incitement”.

“Us as lawyers, we understand that these charges are very fabricated,” Ansari said. “[It’s] only because the Israeli occupation did not want to issue an administrative detention order – because they know if Khader Adnan goes on hunger strike there will be a lot of pressure from the international community.”

“A medical, professional, and ethical failure”

Numerous Palestinian activists and officials, including Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, have accused Israel of “deliberately assassinating” Adnan through a policy of medical neglect.

“The Israeli occupation and its prison administration carried out a deliberate assassination against the prisoner Khader Adnan by rejecting his request for his release, neglecting him medically, and keeping him in his cell despite the seriousness of his health condition,” Shtayyeh said this morning.

Israeli prison officials released a statement saying that Adnan “refused to undergo medical treatment and was found unconscious in his cell in Nitzon prison near Ramleh.”

But Israeli rights group Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) say Adnan had wanted to be hospitalized, and had set three conditions to accept undergoing medical examinations, including allowing his family to visit him, being accompanied by a doctor from the rights group, and that his medical information would not be shared with the Israeli prison service.

PHRI also said it had tried to convince Israeli authorities, including the Israeli health ministry and Israel prison service, to admit Adnan to the hospital to be monitored as his health deteriorated, but was rejected.

According to Middle East Eye, a few days before his death, PHRI chairwoman Lina Qasem-Hassan examined Adnan and concluded in a medical report that he was in immediate need to be hospitalized for observation.

“These attempts were unsuccessful, including personal appeals and court interventions with these parties,” PHRI said in a statement.

PHRI also wrote on Twitter: “Beyond the medical, professional, and ethical failures, Khader Adnan’s story demonstrates Israel’s fear of addressing the main issue against which Adnan protested for so many years – the injustices of the occupation.”

Family rejects calls for vengeance

A week before his death, Adnan’s wife Randa Musa warned that his health was severely deteriorating, with her husband telling her that he is dying.

In a press conference at Adnan’s house in Arraba this morning, Randa stated that the family doesn’t welcome any condemnations or “rocket firing” from “parties that betrayed her husband”, seemingly in response to three rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel following news of Adnan’s death.

“We do not want bloodshed, we do not want missiles to be fired, and whoever didn’t support the sheikh, we do not want their vengeance.”

Adnan’s family demanded that Israel release his body, and not conduct an autopsy. “Khader asked in his will that his body not be touched or dissected,” said Randa.

Israeli prison authorities transferred Adnan’s body to the Abu Kbair Medico-Legal Institute this afternoon.

44-year-old Adnan was a father of nine.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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