Rockets fired from Gaza after Palestinian hunger striker dies in Israeli custody

Emily Rose & Nidal al-Mughrabi

Reuters  /  May 2, 2023

JERUSALEM – Palestinian armed militant groups fired salvoes of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel on Tuesday after an Islamic Jihad leader died in custody following an 87-day hunger strike, the first such death in more than three decades.

Kahder Adnan, who was awaiting trial, was found unconscious in his cell and taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead after efforts to revive him, Israel’s Prisons Service said.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Gaza to rally in support of Adnan and mourn his death, and two separate rocket barrages were launched against Israel, claimed by an umbrella group of militant factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli military said at least three rockets were fired from Gaza in the hours after Adnan ’s death and a further 22 were launched later in the afternoon. Four were intercepted by Israeli air defence systems and the rest fell in open ground.

Since 2011, Adnan had conducted at least three hunger strikes in protest at detentions without charges by Israel. The tactic has been used by other Palestinian prisoners, sometimes en masse, but none had died since 1992.

Disputing the Prisons Service account, Adnan’s lawyer Jamil al-Khatib and a doctor with a human rights group who recently met him accused Israeli authorities of withholding medical care.

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

Adnan, 45, was 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 against it 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 40 kg (88 pounds) and was having trouble breathing but was conscious.

“His death could have been avoided,” 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 hospitalization had not been an option as Adnan had declined “even a preliminary inspection”.


The barrages came almost a month after cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and Gaza, which followed an Israeli police raid in Al-Aqsa Mosque complex during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Our fight is continuing and the enemy will realize once again that its crimes will not pass without a response,” Islamic Jihad, which preaches Israel’s destruction, said in a statement.

Israel’s ambulance service said a 25-year-old foreign national sustained serious shrapnel wounds at a construction site in the southern city of Sderot but no other major injuries were reported.

Israel said it was cancelling a military drill that had been planned for the Gaza periphery “pursuant to a situational assessment”, and was putting staff in security prisons on heightened alert. In the West Bank, Israeli authorities said a man was hurt in a shooting near a Jewish settlement.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Association, Adnan had been arrested by Israel 12 times, spending around eight years in prison, mostly under so-called “administrative detention” – or detention without charges.

Israel says such detentions are required when evidence cannot be revealed in court due to the need to keep intelligence sources secret. Palestinians and rights groups say they deny due process of law.

This time, Adnan was arrested and indicted in an Israeli military court on charges that included links to an outlawed group and incitement to violence, the Prisons Service said.

Reporting by Emily Rose, Nidal Al Mughrabi; editing by Kim Coghill