Who was Khader Adnan, the Palestinian detainee who died on hunger strike?

Who was Khader Adnan, the Palestinian detainee who died on hunger strike?
3 min read
02 May, 2023
Palestinians mourned Khader Adnan, a 45-year-old prisoner who had repeatedly been detained by Israel, after he died following 87 days on hunger strike.
Khader Adnan spent many years of his life in Israeli administrative detention [Getty]

Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who spent 87 days on hunger strike in administrative detention in Israel, was pronounced dead on Tuesday.

He is the 237th Palestinian prisoner to die in Israeli detention since 1967 and one of the best-known detainees held by Israel, being arrested and released from jail several times on what Israeli authorities described as "terror-related charges", or without charge.

When Adnan died at 45, he had spent many years of his life behind bars, in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Before his death on Tuesday, Adnan refused any medical treatment since beginning his hunger strike on 5 February.

Who was Khader Adnan?

Born on 24 March 1978, Adnan hailed from the town of Arraba, south of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

He held a bachelor's degree in economics and mathematics and then joined a master's programme in economics at Birzeit University.

Adnan became a political advocate during his time at university, joining the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement (PIJ) which was founded by Palestinian students in 1981.

He would later become a spokesperson for the Islamist group in the West Bank, where they have a limited presence compared to the Gaza Strip.

He also ran a bakery and briefly worked as a banker.

He was first arrested and held for four months by Israeli authorities in 1999.

The same year, Palestinian security forces arrested him for leading student protests against visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. He was detained by the Palestinian Authority two more times after that.

Adnan would spend years of his life in and out of Israeli prison cells.

He leaves behind nine children, the oldest of whom is 14 and the youngest only two-years-old.

Why were his hunger strikes so important?

In 2012, a 66-day hunger strike turned Adnan into a national hero and revitalised this form of protest as a legitimate form of protest against conditions and other grievances for Palestinian detainees.

At the time, it was the longest hunger strike ever staged by a Palestinian prisoner.

The 2012 protest shone a light on administrative detention, a controversial measure by Israeli authorities under which people are interned without charge for renewable periods of up to six months. Rights groups have repeatedly slammed the practice, which can see Palestinians jailed indefinitely.

In 2015, he again secured his release from Israeli custody with a 56-day hunger strike and spent another 58 days and 25 days without food in 2018 and 2021 respectively.

Four prisoners on hunger strike died in the 1970s and 1980s as they were being force-fed by Israeli authorities.

Force-feeding was outlawed until 2015 when an Israeli law allowed a judge to sanction the practice in some circumstances.

What has the response been?

The PIJ has warned Israel that it will "pay the price for this crime".

Rockets were fired from the besieged Gaza Strip following news of Adnan's death, and Israel responded with artillery fire. There were reports of some injuries in Israel.

The PIJ is one of two main armed groups in Gaza, the other being Hamas which runs the Palestinian enclave.

Hundreds of people also rallied in Gaza, paying their respects to Adnan, in a show of solidarity with other Palestinian detainees. Similar rallies were held across the West Bank and in his hometown of Arraba.

Rights groups said Israeli authorities ignored warnings that Adnan's life was in danger, but Israeli authorities said he had repeatedly refused medical treatment.

The Palestinian foreign ministry on Tuesday held Israel fully responsible for Adnan's death, calling for an international investigation into what it described as an "execution". It said it had referred his case to the International Criminal Court.

(The New Arab, Agencies)