State-owned Israel Railways says it fired around 40 Israeli Arabs after deciding only military veterans could do their jobs.

The railways says its security department changed the criteria. But it also says it is interested in providing veterans work in this tight economy.

The workers acted as lookouts at crossings to prevent trains and vehicles from colliding.

Israel's Arab minority has long suffered from discrimination in the job market. However, the railway denied Monday that it was discriminating against its workers.

It says the new job criteria would also apply to Israeli Jews who were disqualified from the military or chose not to serve for religious reasons. Most Israeli Arabs are not required to serve in the military.