Violence erupted on Tuesday between Palestinian Militants and armed forces of Israel after it was reported that a senior figure in Islamic Jihad Khader Adnan had died as a result of hunger striker he embarked upon some months ago. Both sides have reportedly agreed a ceasefire after his death.
Israeli authorities said he had refused medical care during his 87-day hunger strike, which he began after being detained in the occupied West Bank on terrorism charges. But one of his lawyers accused them of medical negligence and the Palestinian prime minister described his death as a “deliberate assassination”.
According to the BBC, More than 100 Palestinian rockets and mortars were fired into Israel and Israeli warplanes struck sites said to be linked to Hamas, which governs Gaza. A Palestinian man was killed in a strike on Gaza, local officials said. Israeli authorities said Adnan had refused medical care during his 87-day hunger strike, which he began after being detained in the occupied West Bank on terrorism charges. But one of his lawyers accused them of medical negligence and the Palestinian prime minister described his death as a “deliberate assassination”.
An umbrella group of militant groups in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, said the rocket fire was “an initial response to this heinous crime”. Sirens sounded repeatedly in southern Israeli towns as militants launched several rounds of rockets following the announcement of Adnan’s death. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt Col Richard Hecht said 104 rockets were fired in total. Eleven fell into the sea, 14 landed inside Gaza, 24 were intercepted by Israel’s air defence system, and 48 fell in open areas, he added.
At least one rocket hit a building site in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Tuesday afternoon. A 25-year-old Chinese worker was moderately injured by shrapnel and two other foreign workers were slightly injured. Two other people were slightly injured while running to a shelter overnight.
There were loud explosions and flashes lit up the night sky as Israeli warplanes hit 16 targets in Gaza in response, including what the IDF said were weapon manufacturing sites, military compounds and “underground terrorist tunnels”. “We attacked everything we wanted,” Col Hecht said.
A Palestinian security source told the BBC that 12 Hamas military sites were hit across Gaza, causing major damage to them as well as nearby houses.
The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday morning that a 58-year-old man called Hashel Mubarak was killed north of Gaza City, and that five other people were injured.
Egypt, Qatar and the UN were involved in efforts to reach a truce, which a senior Islamic Jihad official said began at 06:00 (03:00 GMT) on Wednesday. “The Palestinian factions have responded positively to the efforts of Egypt and many parties to cease fire,” the official told the BBC. “If the occupation [Israel] carries out any aggression, there will be a strong response from the resistance.”
Islamic Jihad and Hamas also demanded that Israel hand over the body of Khader Adnan to his family for burial.
Tensions had flared with the death of the 45-year-old, who had been in and out of detention by Israel over the past two decades. He had been on hunger strike four times before in protest, helping to make his name well known to Palestinians. While Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails often take a stand by refusing food, this is believed to have been the first such death in three decades.
Adnan began a fifth hunger strike immediately after being detained by Israeli forces at his home in Arraba, near the city of Jenin in the north of the occupied West Bank, on 5 February. Israeli authorities accused him of supporting terrorism, affiliation with a terrorist group and incitement, and he was due to go on trial this month. But the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer said he was being held on “spurious charges intended to further suppress Palestinian activists”.
Last week, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, another advocacy group, warned that Adnan’s health situation was “very serious”. It said he was refusing nutritional supplements and medical examinations.
Adnan’s wife, Randa Mousa, said he was doing that because Israeli authorities had “refused to transfer him to a civilian hospital [and] refused to allow his lawyer a visit”. On Tuesday, the Israel Prison Service announced that Adnan was “found early this morning in his cell unconscious”, and that was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead after efforts to revive him failed.
A senior Israeli official told AFP news agency that Adnan had risked his life by refusing medical attention, adding: “In recent days, the military appeal court decided against releasing him from detention solely on the merit of his medical condition.”
Randa Mousa said she did not want people to grieve her husband’s death. “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,” she told journalists in Arraba, according to AFP. She also insisted she did not want “a drop of blood to be shed” in retaliation. The fate of their prisoners in Israel is a top issue for Palestinians, who hold Israel responsible for their well-being. There are some 4,900 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to Addameer. Most are serving sentences after being convicted by Israeli courts or are being held for questioning, have been charged, or are awaiting or standing trial. It says another 1,016 are in “administrative detention”, a controversial measure under which suspects are held indefinitely without charge or trial for renewable six-month periods. Palestinians regard all those held by Israel as political prisoners.
Addameer says the deportation of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to prisons in Israel is illegal under international law. Palestinians also protest that it makes prison visits difficult because of strict conditions on Palestinians entering Israel from the West Bank.