WEST BANK (Dispatches) – On April 17 of each year, Palestinians commemorate Palestinian Prisoner’s Day to express their loyalty to those imprisoned for defying the Zionist regime’s occupation, and as a reminder to the international community of their legitimate struggle for freedom.
The regime detains about 4,500 Palestinians in its jails, among them 41 women and 140 children below 18 years. Since the beginning of 2021, the regime’s authorities have arrested nearly 1,400 Palestinians.
Nearly 550 inmates suffer from various diseases and require close monitoring and healthcare. At least 10 inmates suffer from cancer of varying degrees, including Fouad al-Shobaki, 82, the oldest of the prisoners. So far, 368 jailed Palestinians have been infected with the coronavirus.
Some Palestinians have spent 40 years in captivity with 543 sentenced to several life sentences.
On Thursday, supporters lit a "torch of freedom” for the prisoners in front of the tomb of late President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, marking the start of the annual commemoration.
"The prisoners have their presence in all Palestinian life and they deserve from us all loyalty and continuous work to relieve them and their families because they sacrificed years of their youth for the freedom of Palestine,” said Sabri Sidam, a Fatah Central Committee member, during the ceremony.
Qadoura Faris, the Palestinian Prisoners Club’s director and former detainee, told Al Jazeera the regime arrests are part of a systematic plan to deplete Palestinian communities of energy to resist the occupation and to create fear.
"Israel has arrested about a million Palestinians since its occupation of the West Bank, East al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and no sun has risen since the beginning of the Israeli occupation to this day,” Faris said.
The regime’s troops target young Palestinians between the age of 19 and 25 to deter them from engaging in activism, officials say. The arrests also aim to impose exorbitant monetary fines ranging from $600-$70,000, with the total penalties against Palestinians at an estimated $9.2m a year.
However, for some prisoners, fighting the occupation continues from behind bars.
Marwan Barghouthi is a Fatah party leader currently serving five life sentences in the regime’s prison for leading in the second Palestinian Intifada from 2000 to 2004. While being held, he has spearheaded an education initiative for Palestinian prisoners.
"The most important battle in Marwan’s life is the battle for education, so he devotes most of his time inside prison to educating the rest of the prisoners,” his brother Muqbil, 54, told Al Jazeera.