Haredi Demonstration
Haredi DemonstrationIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Israeli police on Monday clashed with and arrested more than 40 haredim protesting against the country's compulsory military service, a spokeswoman said.

The biggest demonstration took place in the southern coastal city of Ashdod, where several hundred haredi men protested illegally, blocking off roads, spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

Police arrested 40 at that rally after clashes broke out between demonstrators and police, injuring one officer.

In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, several others were detained after protesting against the arrest of four haredi yeshiva students who refused orders to enlist.

Israel last year passed the controversial Enlistment Law, effective from 2017, that will force haredi men to either serve in the military or perform civilian service.

In 2013, the cabinet agreed to end a practice under which tens of thousands of haredim were exempted from military service if they were in full-time study at a yeshiva (Jewish seminary).

In broader Israeli society, military service is compulsory for both sexes, with men serving three years and women two.

The new law also sets out sanctions against those who refuse to enlist, including imprisonment.

This has enraged the haredi leadership, who say it would be tantamount to jailing people for practicing their faith, and that the new law has diminished haredi enlistment rather than increasing it.

AFP contributed to this report.