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

Khader Adnan, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has died after a nearly three-month-long hunger strike.

Khader Adnan
Palestinian Khader Adnan, centre, is greeted by Palestinians after his release from an Israeli prison in Arrabeh near Jenin in 2015 [File: Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo]

Khader Adnan, an activist affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group, died in an Israeli prison on Tuesday after nearly three months on hunger strike.

Adnan, who was being held pending trial, according to Israeli authorities, had been in and out of prison for more than two decades and had used hunger strikes to protest against his arrests.

Here is what you need to know about the father of nine’s rise to prominence.

Khader Adnan’s early life

Adnan was born on March 24, 1978, in the town of Arrabeh near the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

He was a baker by trade and graduated from Birzeit University with an undergraduate degree in mathematics. He owned a bakery in the city of Qabatya, to the south of Jenin.

Adnan became a political advocate for the PIJ during his student days and was first arrested by Israel and held for four months in 1999.

Eight months later, he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for leading a student demonstration in 1999 at Bir Zeit University against the visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Students had thrown stones at Jospin and his car.

Affiliation with PIJ

Adnan would later become a spokesperson for the PIJ in the West Bank.

The PIJ was founded in 1981 by Palestinian students in Egypt with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and other occupied areas.

Islamic Jihad is the smaller of the two main Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip and is vastly outnumbered by the governing Hamas group.

His family told Al Jazeera in 2012 that he was never active in the PIJ’s military wing, nor was he ever charged for such by Israel.

Adnan had been arrested five times before marrying Randa Adnan, a 31-year-old graduate in Islamic law from An-Najah National University in Nablus, in 2005.

Between 2005 and 2011, he was arrested a further three times.

Hunger strike in 2012

On December 17, 2011, Adnan, who was 33 years old at the time, was arrested from his home in Arrabeh.

Randa was pregnant at the time of his arrest, and the couple had two young daughters.

He was interrogated for 18 days and was reported to have been tortured and humiliated by agents of Israel’s domestic security forces.

He was held in “administrative detention”, a category created by the Israeli authorities to imprison people without charge and without having to release any evidence against them to their lawyers.

During his imprisonment, Adnan held a 66-day hunger strike, the longest by a Palestinian prisoner of Israel at the time. He ended his hunger strike in February 2012 after a deal with the Israeli authorities was reached.

His hunger strike garnered worldwide attention and sparked solidarity protests across the West Bank and Gaza.

Regular arrests

Adnan has been arrested a total of 12 times, sometimes held under “administrative detention” and sometimes on charges like “activities that threaten regional security”.

In 2014, he was arrested and handed a six-month sentence which was later extended, resulting in Adnan conducting a 56-day hunger strike that ended in his release on July 12, 2015.

Adnan was arrested multiple times before his final arrest on February 5, 2023. This time, he was indicted in an Israeli military court on charges that included links to an outlawed group and incitement to violence, the Israel Prison Service said.

In protest against his arrest without charge, he refused to eat for 87 days, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.

He was found dead in his cell on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah in the West Bank, said Adnan’s family had been warning that, after 80 days without food, his life was in danger.

A medic from the group Physicians for Human Rights Israel, who had visited Adnan in prison this week, warned that he “faces imminent death” while calling for him to be “urgently transferred to a hospital”, the AFP news agency reported.

The Israel Prison Service said Adnan had “refused to undergo medical tests and receive medical treatment” and “was found unconscious in his cell”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies