Ramadan 2021 in West Bank, Gaza and Israel: all you need to know about Covid-19 rules and restrictions

What will be different this year and the latest on Ramadan 2021 in the Palestinian territories and Israel

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Celebrations in Israel and the Palestinian territories for Ramadan this year will certainly be quieter than before the coronavirus pandemic.

Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a focal destination for Ramadan celebrations and the third holiest site in Islam, will open its doors for prayers  as are other mosques throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories.

However, the rules will differ between the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, and Muslims are still awaiting final decisions on some measures during the holy month.

Al Aqsa, believed by Muslims to be the place where Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, was closed for more than two months last year, including Ramadan, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Along with other holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City, Al Aqsa reopened after  an intense vaccination drive by Israeli authorities, who control the city.

There are more coronavirus restrictions in place in Gaza and the West Bank, where cases soared in recent weeks amid limited vaccine provision.

Tight border controls that largely ban foreign visitors will remain in place.

Here is everything you need to know about Ramadan 2021.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic – or Hijri – calendar. It is also believed to be the month the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.

Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month, which is typically either 29 or 30 days.

As well as abstaining from food and drink, Ramadan is also a religious time when Muslims strengthen their faith through prayers, philanthropy and increased recitation of the Quran.

When does Ramadan begin?

Ramadan is expected to start on April 13, though the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem will confirm the date nearer the time.

The announcement by Sheikh Mohammad Hussein will follow the Palestinian Fatwa Council ruling that the new crescent moon has been spotted.

If the crescent moon is visible on the 29th day of Sha’ban, Ramadan begins the following day. If not, Sha'ban will last 30 days and Ramadan will begin thereafter.

On Saturday, the Grand Mufti called on Palestinians to look out for the crescent moon on Monday evening and report their sighting to religious authorities. The start of Ramadan will be announced through Palestinian media.

What are the Covid-19 rules in the Palestinian territories and Israel during Ramadan?

The rules differ in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, depending on the government that rules it.

What are the rules in the West Bank?

The rules imposed by the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank including its cities, are in place until April 12 when Ramadan is expected to start.

They include a 7pm curfew and a full weekend lockdown, during which only essential businesses such as pharmacies and bakeries are allowed to open.

Mosques were ordered to close on March 14 and a ban has been imposed on public gatherings since March 15.

The West Bank's Palestinian population is approximately three million, with reports of about 2100 coronavirus deaths and almost 183,000 cases reported.

The Ramadan rules imposed by the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank including its cities, will include a curfew from 8pm to 6am.

The curfew and a ban on public gatherings are expected to prevent community iftar and suhoor meals.

Mosques will be open for daily prayer, though Friday prayers will be held outdoors. A general lockdown will be imposed on Fridays, when only bakeries and pharmacies will be allowed to open.

What are the rules in Gaza?

The measures published by Gaza authorities on April 1 included a 9pm curfew and a driving ban at weekends.

Weekly markets are closed, as are wedding halls, while gatherings are banned. The interior ministry said it may have to tighten measures if coronavirus infections continue to rise.

Further measures published by Gaza authorities on April 6 include school closures until further notice and a driving ban until Sunday.

Gaza's population is approximately two million, where deaths from the coronavirus are 642 with 75,375 cases reported.

What are the rules at Al Aqsa?

Because of the religious sensitivities attached to the Al Aqsa mosque compound, which is located in occupied East Jerusalem, Ramadan plans are subject to separate discussions involving Israeli authorities and the Waqf authority, which administers the site.

Cogat, the Israeli military wing responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, said that 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians will be allowed to pray at Al Aqsa this Friday

"After 16/04, an additional situation assessment will be carried out to examine the approved outline, taking into account both security and health needs," Cogat statement said.

On March 31, the Waqf called on Muslims to get vaccinated against coronavirus before Ramadan. It also urged worshippers to abide by rules such as wearing face masks and maintaining distance between one another during prayers.

Israeli authorities usually ease border restrictions during Ramadan to allow a greater number of Palestinians to visit Al Aqsa from the West Bank.

What are the rules in Israel?

In late March, the Israeli health ministry said prayers during Ramadan can take place with up to 20 worshippers inside, 50 outside, or a maximum of 50 people if a mosque includes both.

People can gather in larger groups if they have a “green pass”, proving they are vaccinated or have recently recovered from coronavirus.

Shops, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to extend their opening hours during Ramadan to avoid overcrowding, the health ministry said.

In Israel the population is approximately nine million. The coronavirus death toll is 6,261, with about 830,000 cases report.

Ramadan 2021 and Covid-19 restrictions: All you need to know by country