Palestinian Hunger Striker’s Death Sparks Israel-Gaza Violence

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Israel-Gaza violence following the death of a Palestinian hunger striker, U.S. visa extensions for Afghans, and an anti-gay law in Uganda.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Israel-Gaza violence following the death of a Palestinian hunger striker, U.S. visa extensions for Afghans, and an anti-gay law in Uganda.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Gaza militants exchanged fire on Tuesday following the death of a high-profile Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody. Khader Adnan, a political leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, died early Tuesday after an 87-day hunger strike to protest his arrest and indictment on charges of incitement and membership in a terrorist organization. Israeli prison authorities said Adnan had refused medical intervention despite his diminishing health. The Arab League has accused Israeli prison staff of “deliberate medical negligence,” and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called it a “deliberate assassination.”

Adnan is the first Palestinian prisoner to die from a hunger strike since 1992. Hunger strikes have become an increasingly common tactic used by Palestinian prisoners to protest their arrests and detentions, and Israeli officials in the past have released prisoners undergoing hunger strikes when their health conditions became life-threatening—including Adnan himself. Since 2004, Israeli officials had detained Adnan 12 times. He spent a total of around eight years in prison and undertook at least five hunger strikes, including a 55-day strike in 2015 to protest his arrest under administrative detention, which is when suspects are indefinitely held without an official charge or trial. “I’m proud of my husband and of what he did,” said Renada Adnan, Khader Adnan’s wife. “They didn’t assassinate him with a bullet. They assassinated him every day for 86 days during his hunger strike.”

Following news of Adnan’s death, militants in Gaza launched three rockets and several mortar rounds into Israeli territory. The IDF immediately responded with retaliatory tank fire. Gaza militants then fired 22 rockets into Israel, four of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. Civilians in the area have been instructed to stay indoors and near bomb shelters, and Israeli officials placed their prison staff on high alert, fearing riots. At least one person has been seriously injured in the Israeli city of Sderot; casualty numbers in Gaza are still unknown.

Violence between Israelis and Palestinians has surged this year. In the first three months of 2023 alone, more than 80 Palestinians died in clashes; around 14 Israelis were killed in that time period. According to Tariq Kenney-Shawa, a Middle East expert, Israel is laying the groundwork for a third intifada by continuing to expand illegal settlements throughout the West Bank. And IDF forces have stepped up raids in the West Bank, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing international condemnation for human rights abuses as well as domestic unrest over unpopular judicial reform proposals.

“[T]he demonstrations and protests now playing out in Israel are unprecedented in both their size and composition,” Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller wrote in February. And as Israel approaches its 75th independence day on May 14, Netanyahu may face his own Arab Spring. “This year may well hold both promise and peril for a country that has experienced more than its share of both,” Miller added.

Two more years. Stay awhile longer: That’s the offer U.S. President Joe Biden is making to tens of thousands of Afghan refugees living in the United States. Sources told CBS News on Monday that the Biden administration is planning to allow Afghan evacuees brought to the United States after the August 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan to stay and work in the United States for another two years by renewing their temporary work permits under a humanitarian immigration policy. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is expected to start accepting renewal requests in June.

Around 77,000 Afghan refugees have come to the United States since the Taliban took power. And special immigrant visa (SIV) applications have surged in recent months following Taliban crackdowns on government dissidents and women’s rights activists. Officials familiar with the matter told FP’s Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer that more than 150,000 Afghans are trying to escape the country via SIVs. However, the visa system “remains mired in bureaucratic backlogs and red tape that has left former U.S. allies in the Taliban-controlled country exposed to imprisonment or Taliban death squads,” they reported. In the meantime, congressional efforts to legalize Afghan asylum-seekers in the United States have stalled.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is sending an additional 1,500 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, increasing the total number of military personnel there to 4,000. The goal is to aid U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers with processing asylum-seekers. The move comes just nine days before Title 42 measures are set to expire, a policy created under former U.S. President Donald Trump that allows U.S. officials to expel migrants at the southern border under the guise of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Anti-gay law 2.0. On Tuesday, lawmakers in Uganda passed a new version of a harsh anti-gay bill. The new legislation differentiates between being LGBTQ and engaging in LGBTQ acts and removes a clause that criminalizes identifying as LGBTQ—only because homosexuality is already illegal in the country. It also orders jail time for advocates of LGBTQ rights and specifies that the death penalty is punishment for “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as having same-sex sexual relations with minors, people with HIV, or other vulnerable populations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is expected to sign the bill despite international condemnation.

According to journalist Caleb Okereke, these anti-gay legislation efforts have direct links to white evangelical Christianity’s influence in Uganda. “[A] made-in-the-USA movement and ideology … is polarizing African countries and harming and endangering LGBTQ+ people,” he highlighted.

Qurashi killed. Islamic State leader Abu Hussein al-Qurashi died on Saturday after detonating a suicide vest during a Turkish special forces raid on his hideout in Syria, according to Turkish officials. Qurashi, who had led the terrorist group for only six months, is the third Islamic State chief to die by detonating an explosive device since 2019. At this time, the United States hasn’t been able to independently confirm his death, and the Islamic State has not announced who will fill Qurashi’s shoes.

Better late than never? After more than 1,000 major businesses left Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, Match Group—which owns popular dating apps including Tinder, Hinge, and OkCupid—officially announced on Monday that it will join Western ranks by withdrawing all of its brands from the Russian market, citing the need to protect human rights. The organization is set to leave Russia by June 30.

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