Gaza truce holds as Palestinians protest death of hunger striker
Israeli forces demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank as more rallies planned after death of Khader Adnan in Israeli prison.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has announced a truce in the Gaza Strip after it traded fire with Israel following the death of hunger striker Adnan Khader in Israeli custody.
Mediators from Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations intervened to broker a return to calm from 4am (01:00 GMT), sources in Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Palestinian officials said.
The Israeli army announced a “complete return to routine” on Wednesday in areas near Gaza.
Earlier, Israeli jets had struck Gaza as armed groups there fired rockets towards Israel in response to the death of Adnan, a prominent political leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He died after an 87-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison.
Ahead of the truce, Israeli warplanes launched multiple raids on areas across Gaza, including Al-Safina, Al-Baydar and empty land near the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood.
A Palestinian man, Hashel Mubarak Salman Mubarak, 58, was killed and five people were wounded in the Israeli strikes, the Palestinian health ministry said on Wednesday.
Adnan, who was awaiting trial, was found unconscious in his cell and taken to a hospital where he was declared dead after failed efforts to revive him, Israel’s Prisons Service said. He was the first Palestinian hunger striker to die in Israeli custody in more than 30 years.
About 100 rockets were fired by armed groups from Gaza towards Israel, according to Islamic Jihad. In response, the Israeli army said it carried out a number of air strikes on Gaza targeting “weapons manufacturing sites, outposts, military complexes and an underground terror tunnel” belonging to Hamas.
The Israeli army said the last warning sirens sounded near the territory of Gaza at 5:30am (02:30 GMT).
“One round of confrontation has ended, but the march of resistance continues and will not stop,” Tariq Salmi, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, said in a statement. “Our brave fighters have proven their loyalty and commitment to defending their people.”
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh demanded that Israel immediately return Adnan’s body to his family.
“We stress – and as we have informed all the mediators who intervened – the necessity of handing over the body of the martyr Khader Adnan to his patient family,” Haniyeh said in a statement.
A string of high-profile hunger strikes during at least 13 stints in Israeli custody had turned Adnan into a national hero and revitalised hunger striking as a form of protest among Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces demolished the homes of two Palestinian families in the occupied West Bank.
Governor of Salfit Abdullah Kamil called on the international community and human rights groups to stand up for the Palestinian people and their rights.
Under the new right-wing Israeli government sworn in late last year, Israeli officials have been fast-tracking the demolition of what Israel calls “illegal” Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis.
General strike, more protests
Also on Wednesday, shops and schools remained closed during a general strike announced the day before across several cities in the occupied West Bank in support of Adnan.
In the city of Hebron, some protesters burned tyres and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. There were no reports of injuries.
“We have to shut down our towns to protest and do more than that,” Majid Abullah, a demonstrator in Ramallah, told Al Jazeera.
“He [Adnan] starved for 86 days. People here are conditioned to think it’s normal. It’s exhausting, but we need to come out and do this because no one is listening. People need to hear.”
On Tuesday, hundreds of people also took to the streets in blockaded Gaza and the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin, Hebron and Ramallah to rally in support of Adnan and mourn his death.
Palestinians in Ramallah said they planned another protest in support of Adnan at 6pm [15:00 GMT] on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, Palestinian Authority security forces suppressed a march in Jenin in support of Adnan with tear gas and stun grenades. They also arrested prominent activist Ghassan al-Saadi and two others.
At least 11 other Palestinians were also detained by Israeli forces in the West Bank.