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Palestinian hunger striker dies in Israeli detention

A relative mourns Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who has died in Israeli custody after a hunger strike lasting nearly three months. ©AFP

Arraba (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - A Palestinian hunger striker died in Israeli custody Tuesday, nearly three months after being detained over his ties to the Islamic Jihad militant group, drawing Arab condemnation of Israel and rocket fire from Gaza.

The death of Khader Adnan was swiftly followed by three rockets fired by Gaza militants, which "fell in open areas", the Israeli arnmy said.It reported no casualties.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh described the death of Adnan, who was arrested in the occupied West Bank, as a "deliberate assassination".

"By rejecting his request for his release, neglecting him medically and keeping him in his cell, despite the seriousness of his health condition," the premier said in a statement.

Israel's prison service announced the death of a detainee who was affiliated to Islamic Jihad.

He was "found early this morning in his cell unconscious," the prison service said in a statement.

Adnan, 45, was the first Palestinian to die as a direct result of a hunger strike, according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Club.

Other Palestinian detainees have died "as a result of attempts to force feed them", the advocacy group's director, Qaddura Faris, said.

Palestinians shut shops as they observed a general strike in West Bank cities in response to Adnan's death.

The Arab League said Adnan's death was "the result of a policy of deliberate medical negligence, which is systematically practised by the Israeli occupation authorities",

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said prison officials decided to close cells to "prevent riots".

"The directive to the prisoner service is zero tolerance towards hunger strikes and disturbances in security prisons," he said in a statement.

'Pay the price'

A senior Israeli official described Adnan as "a hunger striker who refused medical attention, risking his life".

"In recent days, the military appeal court decided against releasing him from detention solely on the merit of his medical condition," said the official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly to the media.

Adnan was described by the official as an "operative" of Islamic Jihad, who was facing charges related to his activities within the militant group.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 and its forces regularly detain Palestinians, who are subject to Israeli military courts.

Islamic Jihad, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States, warned Israel will "pay the price for this crime".

"The free hero, Khader Adnan, died as a martyr in a crime committed by the enemy in front of the world," the militant group said in a statement.

Israel's prison service said Adnan was in jail for the 10th time and his wife, Randa Mousa, previously told AFP her husband had carried out multiple hunger strikes in detention.

Family against Gaza rockets

Speaking on Tuesday, Mousa said: "We will only receive well-wishers, because this martyrdom is (like) a wedding, a (moment of) pride for us and a crown on our heads."

But she cautioned militants against launching a violent response.

"We don't want a drop of blood to be shed," she told journalists in the family's hometown of Arraba in the northern West Bank.

"We don't want anyone to respond to the martyrdom.We don't want someone to launch rockets and then (Israel) strikes Gaza," she said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli army reported a shooting targeting Israeli vehicles near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank.

In his final message, Adnan said he was "sending you these words as my flesh and fat has melted".

"I pray that God accepts me as a faithful martyr," he wrote, in a message published Monday by the Palestinian Prisoners' Club.

Physicians for Human Rights Israel previously sent a medic to assess Adnan's condition but said their appeals to Israeli authorities to have him transferred to hospital were refused.

"Only with the means available in a hospital could he be adequately monitored and his life could be saved in case of deterioration," the group said Tuesday.

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