A Palestinian prisoner died in Israeli custody early Tuesday after a hunger strike of nearly three months, Israel’s prison service announced.
Khader Adnan’s death raises the potential for conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups during a period of already high tensions. Shortly after his death was announced, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel.
Adnan, 45, began his strike shortly after being arrested on Feb. 5.
Adnan, a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, had gone on hunger strikes several times after previous arrests. That included a 55-day strike in 2015 to protest his arrest under so-called administrative detention, in which suspects are held indefinitely without charge or trial.
Several Palestinians have gone on prolonged hunger strike in recent years to protest being held in administrative detention. In most cases, Israel has eventually released them after their health significantly deteriorated. None have died in custody, but many have suffered irreparable neurological damage.
Israel’s prison service said Adnan had been charged this time with “involvement in terrorist activities” but had refused medical treatment while legal proceedings moved forward. It said he was found unconscious in his cell early Tuesday and transferred to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Palestinian groups called for a general strike in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and in cities across the West Bank on Tuesday, with schools and business closing for what organizers called a day of “general mourning.”
The Israeli military said the missiles fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip fell in open territory, causing no damage. The Islamic Jihad militant group said in a statement that “our fight continues and will not stop.”
Israel fought an 11-day war with Palestinian militants, including Islamic Jihad, in May 2021.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, where Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged over the past year, Israeli officials said a suspected Palestinian shooting attack lightly wounded an Israeli man.
Israel is currently holding over 1,000 Palestinian detainees without charge or trial, the highest number since 2003, according to the Israeli human rights group HaMoked.
That figure has grown in the past year as Israel has carried out almost nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank in the wake of a string of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel in early 2022.
Israel says the controversial tactic helps authorities thwart attacks and hold dangerous militants without divulging incriminating material for security reasons. Palestinians and rights groups say the system is widely abused and denies due process, with the secret nature of the evidence making it impossible for administrative detainees or their lawyers to mount a defense.