Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men protested in Bnei Brak (near Tel Aviv) on the evening of Monday, March 12 (local time), blocking roads in the town and clashing with police in protest of compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox individuals. Demonstrators briefly blocked Jabotinsky Road and the Route 4 highway; police reportedly dragged protesters away who were staging sit-in demonstrations. Additional ultra-Orthodox anti-draft protests, consequent traffic disruptions, and clashes with police are possible in Bnei Brak and elsewhere in Israel in the coming days and weeks.
A related protest took place in Jerusalem on March 8 following the recent arrest of an ultra-Orthodox man who refused to sign a deferral of military service request and was considered a draft dodger.
In September 2017, Israel's Supreme Court struck down a 2015 law that granted military service exemptions to ultra-Orthodox men; however, the court suspended its decision for one year to allow for new arrangements to be made. Recent controversy and protests over ultra-Orthodox conscription, backed by the Jerusalem Faction group, have pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition to attempt to address the issue by drafting a bill to formally exempt ultra-Orthodox individuals from conscription or face the splintering of the coalition and early elections. A final vote on the bill is not anticipated to be held for several months, according to local media sources on March 12.
Related protests over the draft, some of which turned violent, have taken place in recent months in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beit Shemesh - cities that are home to large ultra-Orthodox communities.
Individuals in Israel are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all demonstrations and protests due to the risk of violent escalation, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
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