Palestinian Detainee Dies in Israeli Prison After Hunger Strike

Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who had been on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison for 87 days to protest his detention, died early Tuesday, according to his lawyer and Palestinian and Israeli officials.

It was Mr. Adnan, 44, who helped usher in the practice of individual hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners, conducting a 66-day strike in 2011 that inspired others to use it as a means of protesting Israel’s incarceration of Palestinians, especially the practice of administrative detention.

This time, Mr. Adnan had been on a hunger strike since his arrest on Feb. 5. In recent days, Israeli doctors had warned that his death was “imminent” and called for him to be transferred to a hospital.

Israel had accused Mr. Adnan of being affiliated with Islamic Jihad, an armed Palestinian resistance group, and he was arrested on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization, support for terrorism and incitement.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it held Israel fully responsible for his death, called for an international investigation and said it planned to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

“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,” the Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said in a statement.

The Israeli prison authorities denied that they had neglected Mr. Adnan and said he refused medical treatment.

“He decided to go on hunger strike and he refused any medical examination and any medical treatment,” said Hana Herbst, a spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service. “We couldn’t have done anything different other than forcing him to take medical treatment, which we can’t do.”

Mr. Adnan, who lived in the town of Arraba in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, had been imprisoned by Israel numerous times, often under administrative detention, a practice Israel uses to indefinitely detain people without charges or trials, based on secret evidence. He was a father of nine, according to Palestinian state media.

Mr. Adnan, center, was greeted by Palestinians after he was released from an Israeli prison in 2015.Credit…Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press

Dr. Lina Qasem-Hassan, a family medicine specialist and chairwoman of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, visited Mr. Adnan on April 23 and said he struggled to move and maintain a basic conversation. His limbs had atrophied and he was dangerously emaciated, weighing less than 125 pounds, according to her assessment, the group said in its statement.

Dr. Qasem-Hassan had warned that his condition would only worsen.

Mr. Adnan was being held at the Israel Prison Service medical center and was found unconscious in his cell on Tuesday, according to prison authorities. He was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation and then transferred to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Following the news of his death, the Israeli military reported that three rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, where they fell into open areas. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Palestinian armed resistance groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the main groups in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, have regularly threatened to strike Israel if a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner died.

In January 2022, a 141-day hunger strike by Hisham Abu Hawash, who was being held in administrative detention, came close to sparking a conflict between Israel and the Palestinian armed groups.

Israel had accused Mr. Abu Hawash of involvement in plans to attack Israelis but had not charged him or put him on trial. Mr. Abu Hawash eventually ended his strike after Israel agreed to release him.

In the wake of Mr. Adnan’s death, Tuesday, Hamas said that Israeli crimes against Palestinians “must not go unnoticed.”

Ms. Herbst said that Mr. Adnan had been taken to a hospital on numerous occasions, but each time he had refused medical treatment and was transferred back to the Israeli prison medical center.

Mr. Adnan had said he wanted to be hospitalized and gave three conditions for undergoing medical examinations, which included 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, according to the Physicians for Human Rights Israel.

“According to medical ethics principles, Adnan’s requests are reasonable,” Anat Litvin, the director of the group’s prisoners and detainees department, said in the statement on Monday. “There is no reason to deny them other than a desire to punish him and end his strike. This is a clear power struggle between the security authorities and the hunger striker.”

In an interview with The New York Times last year, Mr. Adnan described hunger strikes as a crucial weapon in resisting Israeli occupation. He pushed for hunger-strike tactics to maintain pressure on the Israeli authorities, including refusing to take food supplements or vitamins and refusing medical checkups.

“This is a weapon for our people,” he said. “And we need to preserve the quality of this weapon.”

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