Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader dies in Israeli custody after 86-day hunger strike

Palestinian factions have called Adnan's death an assassination, and warning that they will up the "resistance" against Israel in response.

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan gestures as he speaks during a rally honoring him following his release, near the West Bank city of Jenin July 12, 2015.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ABED OMAR QUSINI/FILE PHOTO)
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan gestures as he speaks during a rally honoring him following his release, near the West Bank city of Jenin July 12, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ABED OMAR QUSINI/FILE PHOTO)

Khader Adnan, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) political official in the West Bank, died in Israeli custody Tuesday morning, 86 days after he went on hunger strike.

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) said Adnan, 44, was found unconscious in his cell. He had refused to undergo medical examinations or receive treatment during the hunger strike, according to IPS.

Adnan was transferred to the Assaf Harofeh Hospital (Shamir Medical Center) while undergoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation but was later pronounced dead.

A warning to Israel

Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials had warned that Israel would “pay a heavy price” should Adnan die in custody.

On Monday, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said that the top PIJ official was in critical condition and could die at any moment.

 Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan is greeted upon his release from an Israeli jail, in the West Bank village of Arabeh near Jenin July 12, 2015.  (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER/FILE PHOTO) Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan is greeted upon his release from an Israeli jail, in the West Bank village of Arabeh near Jenin July 12, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER/FILE PHOTO)

Adnan is the most senior PIJ official to die in Israeli custody in recent years. He was arrested last February on charges of membership in a terror organization and incitement.

A resident of the town of Arrabeh near Jenin, Adnan was one of the masterminds of hunger strikes by Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli jails. He himself had gone on hunger strikes a number of times during his previous incarceration.

Adnan previously spent a total of eight years in Israeli prison on charges related to his activities on behalf of PIJ. He was arrested as part of an Israeli security crackdown on PIJ terrorists and infrastructure in the northern West Bank.

Palestinian factions call for escalation after Adnan's death

The PIJ said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel bears full responsibility for the "heinous crime" and "will pay the price."

The statement described Adnan as a “martyr” and “brave leader” and said that PIJ “won’t abandon the path of Jihad [holy war] and resistance as long as Palestine remains under occupation.”

Hamas also vowed to avenge Adnan’s death, dubbing it an “assassination.”

“We hold the criminal occupation and its fascist extremist government fully responsible for this premeditated crime,” Hamas said in a separate statement. “The criminal occupation will pay the price for this crime.”

 Palestinians rally holding posters following the death of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan during a hunger strike in an Israeli jail, near Jenin in the West Bank, May 2, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA) Palestinians rally holding posters following the death of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan during a hunger strike in an Israeli jail, near Jenin in the West Bank, May 2, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

Hamas said that the Palestinian factions will step up the “resistance” against Israel by all means and tools.”

The Palestinian Authority also held the Israeli government “fully responsible for the execution of Khader Adnan," and The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.

The Ministry added that it would bring the case of Adnan before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused Israeli authorities of “assassinating” Adnan by refusing to release him and keeping him in a cell despite his critical condition.

A general strike was announced in several areas of the West Bank in protest of the death of Adnan.

The Goldin family called on Israel not to release Adnan's body until Hamas returns the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, both of whom are presumed to have been killed during the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas is believed to be holding their bodies and to have imprisoned two Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

"We are calling on the members of the government, the cabinet and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to use this lever on the enemy that is firing rockets at the south. Make sure you stand behind the IDF soldiers and send them home," the Goldin family said.