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Defence Minister Ehud Barak has given Israel's army one month to prepare to conscript ultra-Orthodox Jews, after a law exempting them expired at midnight (21:00 GMT) on Tuesday.
In February, the Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law, under which seminary students can defer military service, unconstitutional.
It said a revised law should be drafted by the end of July, but the political parties have failed to reach agreement.
Secular Israelis say the law is unfair.
Ultra-Orthodox leader Meir Porush, a former Knesset member, told Associated Press that any attempt to conscript members of his community would unleash "civil war", but added that the army was itself unlikely to want religious conscripts.
"The Israeli military is not ready, won't be ready and doesn't want to be ready" to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews, Mr Porush said.
Why make a peaceful people who do not want to pick up arms against another of God's creation fight if their law forbids it?
Ultra-Orthodox leader Meir Porush, a former Knesset member, told Associated Press that any attempt to conscript members of his community would unleash "civil war"
I am at a loss. We need more people who refuse to kill each other like animals with clothing. Not more able bodied people picking up where the last cave man left off.