Hundreds of Israeli settlers have forced their way into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
Witnesses said that the settlers, escorted by Israeli forces, stormed Al Aqsa Mosque in groups from the Al Mughrabi Gate area, adding that right-wing Israeli rabbi Yehuda Glick was among the settlers who broke into the mosque.
The Jordan-run Jerusalem Islamic Endowment Department said that Periphery, Negev and Galilee Development Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf also joined the settlers.
This came as Israeli settlers prepare to celebrate the 56th anniversary of occupying East Jerusalem along with their planned "flag march" to walk through East Jerusalem's Old City areas.
Earlier this week, Israeli extremist groups announced that they are seeking to mobilise nearly 5,000 Israeli settlers to break into the Al Aqsa Mosque complex on the day of the "flag march" on Thursday.
The “flag march” is staged by Israeli settlers every year to mark what they call the unification of Jerusalem, in reference to Israel's occupation of the city in 1967.
Prohibiting raising the Palestinian flag
The Knesset, Israel's parliament, passed a new bill on Wednesday that prohibits raising the Palestinian flag.
According to the Knesset website, the bill titled "prohibition of raising the flag of a hostile entity" was proposed by the far-right Jewish Strength (Otzma Yehudit) party headed by hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
It added the bill was supported by 54 lawmakers versus 16 who opposed it.
The bill stipulates that raising the Palestinian flag, or other flags of states classified as the enemy to Israel, within an assembly "will constitute a criminal offence that bears the penalty of a year's imprisonment."
The bill was approved in the parliament’s initial session and there are still three sessions to go before the bill is finally passed.
In January, Ben-Gvir said he instructed police to remove the Palestinian flags from public spaces.
'Heading towards fascism'
Even before the new draft bill, the Israeli police and soldiers had the authority to remove Palestinian flags in cases where they deem there is a threat to public order.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry, for its part, condemned the passing of the bill against the Palestinian flag, considering it "evidence that the ruling regime in Israel is heading towards fascism."
The ministry warned that the move will further escalate the conflict.
It added that the failure of the international community to check the Israeli violations encourages it to go further with its colonial plans and apartheid policy.