Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan, 45, became the first Palestinian to die in a hunger strike protesting the Israeli occupation and illegal detention of thousands of Palestinian civilians.
Khader Adnan, from Arraba town, southwest of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, was born on March 24, 1978, and was a married father of nine children. He held a bachelor’s degree in economic mathematics.
Adnan’s death came on the 87th day of a hunger strike which he began on February 5th, the day Israeli soldiers abducted him.
This was the 12th time Adnan had been abducted and imprisoned by Israeli forces. He spent a total of eight years of his life behind bars in Israeli military prisons — most of that time in so-called ‘administrative detention’, an illegal practice used by Israeli martial authorities to hold Palestinians for extended periods without any charges.
Israeli authorities refused to allow Khader Adnan’s wife and children to see him, even as his health condition deteriorated severely in his last days, and refused the repeated requests by Adnan’s lawyer to have him transferred out of the notoriously ill-equipped Ramla Prison clinic into a civilian hospital.
Khader Adnan was considered one of the most prominent Palestinian political prisoners. He went on extended hunger strikes on five previous occasions – in 2004 for 25 days, in 2012 for 66 days, in 2015 for 56 days, in 2018 for 58 days, and in 2021 for 25 days. These repeated hunger strikes caused severe health impacts, as the body’s internal organs begin to fail after the first two weeks of a hunger strike.
Although Israeli authorities considered Adnan to be a “security threat”, they had never filed official charges against him, and held him in prison repeatedly without any charges.
Palestinian political leaders say that Adnan was targeted because of his vocal and steadfast opposition to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land — a military occupation that is considered illegal under international law and has been condemned by multiple United Nations resolutions.
The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society issued a statement that “Adnan, through his six hunger strikes and martyrdom, “carried the voice of the prisoners to all parts of the world, and was able, with each hunger strike, to gain his freedom. This time, the Israeli occupation made the decision to assassinate him.”
With the death of Khader Adnan, the number of Palestinian prisoners who died in Israeli custody since 1967 has risen to 236, of whom 75 were the result of the crime of deliberate medical negligence.
This is in addition to hundreds who died months or years after they were released, due to health conditions and illness they developed in prison without receiving professional medical treatment.
While Israel claimed Adnan “refused to undergo medical tests and receive treatment”, his lawyer Jamil Al-Khatib accused Israel of deliberate medical negligence and said that he had repeatedly requested that Israeli authorities move Adnan to a civilian hospital in Israel, but the request was denied by the Israeli Prison Authority.
The Palestinians declared a general strike across the occupied territory and called for massive processions to condemn Adnan’s death, the ongoing Israeli crimes and violations.
As for the number of prisoners who died in captivity, but whose bodies are being held by Israeli authorities, there are now 13: Anis Doula, who died in Ashkelon prison in 1980, Aziz Owaisat since 2018, Fares Baroud, Nassar Taqatqa, Bassam Al-Sayeh, who died in 2019, Saadi Al-Gharabli, and Kamal Abu Wa’ar, who died in 2020, Sami Al-Amour, who died in 2021, Daoud Al-Zubaidi, Nasser Abu Hamid and Mohammad Maher Turkman, who died in 2022 , the detainee Wadih Abu Ramoz, who died in an Israeli occupation hospital on January 28, 2023, and Khader Adnan, who succumbed in his cell in the Ramla prison clinic on May 2, 2023.
The death of Khader Adnan has been compared to that of the Irish nationalist political prisoner Bobby Sands, who died after 66 days on hunger strike in 1981.
According to the Bobby Sands Foundation, he was an Irish republican, an IRA Volunteer and a key figure in the fight against British imperialism in the north of Ireland during the 1970s and early 1980s.
He came to public prominence during the 1981 hunger strike when he led the protest by men in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh and women in Armagh Jail who sought political prisoner status. Bobby endured years of solitary confinement and beatings. During his imprisonment he was elected MP for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
Bobby began his hunger strike on 1st March 1981 and died after sixty-six days on the 5th May 1981. In the aftermath of his death he became an international figure that inspires not only Irish republicans in their pursuit of freedom from British rule, but people around the world in the fight for their rights.