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Ultra-Orthodox soldier attacked in Jerusalem: police

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Israeli soldiers from an Ultra Orthodox battalion pray on the top of the ancient fortress of Masada in the Judean desert on March 23, 2007. Israeli police on Tuesday rescued an ultra-Orthodox soldier who was attacked by a group of his coreligionists in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood, a spokesman said. (AFP/File)

Israeli police on Tuesday rescued an ultra-Orthodox soldier who was attacked by a group of his coreligionists in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood, a spokesman said.

"Police rescued an ultra-Orthodox soldier who had taken refuge inside a building in Mea Shearim after being attacked by dozens of haredim," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, using the Hebrew word for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The soldier had taken refuge inside a building in the middle of the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood after he was attacked by people throwing stones and called for help.

But when the police arrived, they too came under attack by stone-throwers who tried to stop them from rescuing the soldier, Rosenfeld said.

"Police were also attacked by 100-150 haredim who threw stones at them to prevent them from entering the building," he said.

The soldier was rescued unharmed and four of the stone-throwers were arrested, he added.

The incident came as a national debate rages over the issue of ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the army.

The Israeli government on Sunday approved a draft law which would spell the end of a system which has seen tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox exempted from military service.

The bill, which is vehemently opposed by the ultra-Orthodox community, must now pass three readings in parliament before becoming law.

It seeks to amend the current situation in which ultra-Orthodox men have automatically been exempted if they are studying in religious seminaries, or yeshivas.

Military service is compulsory in Israel, with men serving three years and women two.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up roughly 10 percent of Israel's population of just over eight million.