Gaza Militants Fire Rockets at Israel After Palestinian Hunger Striker Dies - the WSJ - 02.05.23
Israeli jet fighters strike targets in Gaza in response from the Wall Street Journal by Dov Lieber, Fatima AbdulKarim and Anas Baba.
TEL AVIV—Militants in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets at Israel on Tuesday after the death of a Palestinian on hunger strike in Israeli custody, raising fears of an escalation during a particularly violent period between the two sides.
Late Tuesday night, Israel’s military said it struck targets in Gaza in response to the rocket attack. The airstrikes sparked another round of militant rocket launches toward Israeli cities near the blockaded Palestinian enclave. No deaths were immediately reported on either side.
Khader Adnan, a prominent member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, died early Tuesday following a nearly three-month hunger strike. He had been arrested in early February on charges of supporting terrorism and incitement.
Hours later, militants fired several rocket barrages—at least 30 rockets in total—from Gaza into southern Israel, according to Israel’s military, moderately wounding a foreign worker in the city of Sderot. Two others were injured in the same incident, and all three were being treated, Israeli paramedics said.
The volley of rockets set off air-raid sirens and sent scores of Israelis rushing to bomb shelters. The Israeli military said most of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defenses or landed in open areas. Israel’s police said they located at least five places where the rockets landed, three in Sderot and two in other towns near the Gaza border.
Gaza ruler Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both designated by the U.S. as terrorist groups, and other smaller militant groups in Gaza claimed joint responsibility for the afternoon rocket fire at Israel. The Israeli military said Islamic Jihad militants fired the rockets with Hamas’s foreknowledge and consent.
“This comes as the first response to this heinous crime,” the groups said in a joint statement, referring to the death of Mr. Adnan.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with senior military commanders following the rocket fire, according to his office. “Anyone who attempts to harm the citizens of Israel, will be sorry,” Mr. Gallant said.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a forum of senior security brass, including the Israeli military’s chief of staff, to discuss the rocket barrage and possible responses, Mr. Netanyahu’s office said.
Israelis and Palestinians are living through one of the deadliest periods in the conflict in years. At least 95 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or civilians since January, including militants and civilians, according to a count by The Wall Street Journal. At least 16 Israelis and two foreigners have been killed in Palestinian attacks, all of them civilians except for one police officer.
In early April, clashes at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound—a site holy to both Muslims and Jews—helped spark rocket fire from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. The Israeli army said Palestinian militants were behind the attacks at the time.
Israel says Islamic Jihad is a main source of terrorist attacks against Israel from the West Bank.
A Palestinian gunman opened fire on Israeli vehicles in the northern West Bank on Tuesday morning, hitting two vehicles, Israel’s military said. At least one Israeli was injured mildly in the incident, Israeli medical authorities said. It couldn’t be determined if the shooting was connected to the death of Mr. Adnan.
Islamic Jihad called Mr. Adnan a great leader and tough fighter. Israeli security officials said he wasn’t a senior member of the group.
Many Palestinians view prisoners in Israeli jails, including those held by Israel for attacks on civilians, as freedom fighters against Israel’s occupation. Palestinian families often have at least one member who has passed through Israel’s military justice system, and perceived threats to them resonate broadly with the Palestinian public.
Mr. Adnan, a baker from the northern West Bank, gained prominence as a hunger-striking activist in prison—drawing international attention and admiration in Palestinian circles. This was at least Mr. Adnan’s 10th time in Israeli custody and his sixth hunger strike since 2004, according to Palestinian authorities. Israeli authorities said it was his fifth hunger strike.
The European Union called for a transparent investigation into Mr. Adnan’s death, while condemning calls for retaliation by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Before the afternoon attack from Gaza, Mr. Adnan’s wife, Randa Musa, appealed to Gaza militant groups to refrain from firing rockets at Israel.
“You did nothing to save his life, so do not do so after his death,” she said at a press conference in the West Bank. “My nine sons are the ones who will avenge their father at the right time.”
Mr. Adnan was found unconscious in his cell early Tuesday. CPR was performed on him while he was transferred to a hospital in central Israel, where he was pronounced dead, Israel’s prison services said.
Mr. Adnan’s lawyer, Jameel Khateeb, said he began his hunger strike the day he was detained and refused to consume anything but water. Mr. Adnan’s appeal to be released based on his worsening medical condition had been rejected by Israeli authorities, Mr. Khateeb said.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an advocacy group, said that Mr. Adnan’s medical condition had been worsening for weeks and that requests to transfer him to a hospital were denied by Israeli authorities.
The organization said Israeli authorities had refused requests to allow Mr. Adnan’s family to visit him as his condition turned deadly. A plea in court was delayed without a decision before his death.
Israeli authorities said Mr. Adnan’s previous hunger strikes were carried out while he was held in administrative detention, meaning imprisonment without charge or trial. This time, Israeli authorities said he had been indicted and a hearing for evidence against him was scheduled for May 10.
It is common for Palestinian prisoners who are in Israeli custody under administrative detention to carry out hunger strikes, and for Israel to release them if their medical condition becomes life-threatening.
Israel is currently holding more than 1,000 Palestinians in administrative detention, the highest number since 2003, according to the Israeli human-rights group Hamoked.
The last time a Palestinian died after going on hunger strike in an Israeli prison was in 1992, said an Israeli prison-service spokeswoman.
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—Aaron Boxerman contributed to this article.
Write to Dov Lieber at firstname.lastname@example.org
A construction site where a rocket landed in Sderot, Israel. Photo: abir sultan/EPA/Shutterstock