JERUSALEM: Several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews scuffled with police in Jerusalem on Sunday in protest against a court ruling that could require them to serve in the army like secular Israelis. The demonstration in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of the city was organised by a particularly hardline group known as the Eda Haredit.

Rabbis gave speeches in Yiddish in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood, while a banner read: "We're Jews and therefore will not enlist in the Zionist army." The protest became violent when demonstrators blocked roads and resisted efforts to disperse them by riot police, mounted officers and water cannon. "Eight rioters who used violence against police were arrested," a police statement said in Hebrew. "They lay down in the road, shouting slogans against the police, some of them threw stones at police," it added. Last week's Israeli Supreme Court decision strikes down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, saying it undermines equality.

The decision raises the possibility that they could be forced into service, a highly contentious proposition with political implications.