Gaza ceasefire halts escalation of violence following death of Khader Adnan

Thomas Helm

The National  /  May 2, 2023

Fighting had increased following the death of prominent Palestinian hunger striker.

Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza agreed to a ceasefire on Wednesday as fighting between the sides escalated following the death of Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan.

The halt in violence was brought about by the efforts of Egyptian, Qatari and UN officials, Reuters reported, quoting Palestinian officials.

Israel bombed the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after armed groups fired rockets into Israeli territory.

Sirens sounded in Israeli territory close to Gaza as the late-night operation took place, after militants in the enclave launched a barrage.

Hamas sites including two weapons factories, a cement manufacturing site, a military post used by the Hamas naval wing and an underground tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip were attacked by Israeli forces.

“The strike was carried out in response to the rocket launches from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory earlier today,” the Israeli military said on Tuesday.

“This strike significantly harms the capabilities and prevents further weapons acquisition capabilities of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip.

“The IDF holds Hamas responsible for all terror activities emanating from the Gaza Strip and it will face the consequences.”

The Israeli military said at least 26 rockets were fired from Gaza. Two landed in the southern city of Sderot, wounding three people, including a 25-year-old foreign citizen who suffered shrapnel wounds, Israel’s ambulance service said.

An umbrella group of armed Palestinian factions in Gaza including Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets.

Hamas’s military wing said it was firing missiles at Israeli aircraft operating over the enclave.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad told Israel that “we haven’t started yet” in a video showing its members readying arms.

Israeli outlet Ynet reported on Tuesday that the country’s military was investigating an unusually low rocket interception rate by its Iron Dome system.

Khader Adnan died in Israeli custody on Tuesday after an 87-day hunger strike.

He was awaiting trial and was found unconscious in his cell and taken to hospital, where he was declared dead after attempts to revive him, Israel’s Prisons Service said.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Gaza and the occupied West Bank to rally in support of Adnan and mourn his death, which Palestinian leaders described as an assassination.

In the West Bank city of Hebron/Al-Khalil, shops observed a general strike. Some protesters burnt tyres and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. There were no reports of injuries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met security officials to assess the situation. An IDF official said there would respond at a time and a place of its choosing.

Since 2011, Adnan had conducted at least three hunger strikes in protest against detentions without charges by Israel.

The tactic has been used by other Palestinian prisoners, sometimes en masse, but none had died since 1992.

Adnan’s lawyer Jamil al-Khatib and a doctor with a human rights group who recently met the prisoner accused Israeli authorities of withholding medical care.

“We demanded he be moved into a civilian hospital where he could be properly monitored. Unfortunately, such a demand was met by intransigence and rejection,” Mr Al-Khatib told Reuters.

Adnan, 45, was a baker and a father of nine from Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Islamic Jihad sources said he was one of its political leaders.

The faction has a limited West Bank presence but is the second most powerful armed group in Hamas-ruled Gaza, where Israeli forces fought a brief war last August.

Lina Qasem-Hassan, of Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, said she saw Adnan on April 23, at which point he had lost 40kg and was having trouble moving and breathing, but was still conscious.

“His death could have been avoided,” Ms Qasem-Hassan told Reuters, saying several Israeli hospitals had refused to admit Adnan after he made brief visits to their emergency rooms.

The prisons service said admitting Adnan to hospital had not been an option because he declined “even a preliminary inspection”.

Thomas Helm is Jerusalem correspondent at The National