Ramadan is often a busy month for Palestinian police as tempers are short and fights break out as Muslims go without food and water during the day as they fast.
However, in addition to the spike in fighting, police are also busy patrolling the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza strip looking for those who break the fast in public.
On Wednesday, police arrested a man in Tubas, in the northern West Bank, for “violating the sacredness of Ramadan”, by eating in public during the holy month, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported.
Police said in a statement that a police patrol had seen a man “breaking the fast” publicly and arrested him, and that the man would face legal consequences for the act.
The head of Ramallah’s general prosecution office, Alaa Tamimi, stated at the beginning of the week that those who were caught breaking the fast during the holy month would be jailed for one month.
However, Tamimi added the “suspects” would be questioned first before indicting them, based on Palestinian law, then referring them to the magistrate’s court.
Three men were also arrested in Hebron, in the southern West Bank, on Monday after they were caught eating in a public place.
A police statement noted that the three were arrested for “paying no respect to the feelings of those fasting”. The three were referred to the general prosecution to face legal proceedings.
Article 275 of the Palestinian penal code, amended in 2011, notes that breaking fast publicly during Ramadan prompts a punishment up to 30 days in prison, or a fine up to $21.
However, complicating matters is that a minority of Palestinians are Christian and do not fast during Ramadan, while those Muslims who are sick or pregnant are not obliged to fast.
Nevertheless, the enforcement of fasting has outraged some Palestinians who have called it religious coercion arguing that the practice should be voluntary.
Some restaurants in Ramallah also allow Palestinians to eat clandestinely behind closed doors during daylight hours as the vigilant owners and employees, who are preparing food for breaking the fast later in the evening, keep a watchful eye on police patrols outside.