Israel’s defense minister says conscription should include 'all segments of society'

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Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday that recruitment into the army should include all segments of society.

His statement came after he voted against a controversial bill proposed by the Israeli government in the Knesset, which grants ultra-Orthodox Jews exemptions from military service.

“We need everyone to protect ourselves in this country. We will bring everyone possible, from all segments of the public, from all levels, we will draft them, we will give them equal opportunity,” Gallant said as he met with soldiers during a visit to one of the army units.

“There are more challenges ahead” that Israel will face in the future, which will make recruiting everyone into the army necessary, he added.

The Knesset (Israel's parliament) on Monday evening voted in favor of a bill to extend an exemption of military service for ultra-Orthodox youth, known also as Haredi Yeshiva students.

Gallant was the only Knesset member among the ruling coalition to vote against the bill.

The bill will now move to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in preparation for its second and third readings before becoming law.

The bill, if approved, would lower the age of mandatory service for Ultra-Orthodox Jews from 26 to 21, and "very slowly" increase the rate of their conscription in the army.

Israel has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire.

Nearly 37,200 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and more than 84,800 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Eight months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

*Writing by Rania Abu Shamala

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