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Ultra-Orthodox protesters try to set fire to Jerusalem army draft office

Clip posted by Haredi news site suggests arson attempt as demonstrators protest court decision to send 11 draft dodgers to jail

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the army draft, at the entrance to Jerusalem, November 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the army draft, at the entrance to Jerusalem, November 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox protesters tried to set fire to the Jerusalem draft office during demonstrations there, according to a video clip posted online Tuesday.

The footage, posted by the Hadrei Haredim website, was filmed Monday as the protesters prevented entry or exit from the building. The grainy clip showed them trying to set two small fires in what appears to be the guardhouse at the entrance.

The army said that that the protesters had set fire to some signs and anything else they could find near the fence.

“They tried to destroy the fence. There were no injuries. There was, of course, some property damage, but nothing too serious,” an army spokesperson said, adding that “the suspects were taken by the Israel Police for further investigation.”

So far this week, 32 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators have been arrested during a salvo of demonstrations held in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Beit Shemesh, and Modiin Illit. Protests were sparked after the Jaffa Military Court on Sunday sentenced 11 ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers to jail sentences ranging from 40 to 90 days.

At issue is a decades-old debate as to whether young ultra Orthodox men studying in yeshivas should be called up for compulsory military service, like the rest of Israel’s Jewish population. After reaching the age of 18, men must serve for 32 months and women for 24.

A mounted police officer disperses ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstrators during a protest against army conscription in Bnei Brak, on November 20, 2017. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Earlier this year, the High Court of Justice struck down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, saying it undermined the principle of social equality. The decision raises the possibility that they could be forced into service, a highly contentious proposition with political implications. However, the court suspended its decision for a year to allow for preparations for the new arrangement, giving the government the option to pass a new law.

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