Residents of Wadi Ara believe they are being collectively punished by the Bezeq telephone company for the theft of telephones cables in the area, Haaretz has learned.

In particular, residents of the the villages of Ara and Arara complain that for several months now, phone lines have been disconnected time and again, with Bezeq delaying the repairs and leaving entire neighborhoods without communications. The company rejected the claims, arguing the cable thefts by thieves seeking metal have forced it to build a whole new infrastructure, which takes time.

The last phone line failure in the area occurred two weeks ago, and several dozens of homes, business and public buildings still have no access to phone and internet. "It looks like a medieval clinic," says Dr. Yussef Masarua, who runs the Clalit clinic in Ara and receives scores of patients every day without access to phone and internet. "I'm doing everything manually, because we can't connect the computer and the phones aren't working. Every time we call Bezeq, they say something has been stolen and they're looking into it. The last thing I heard from them was that they expect to reconnect us by April 30."

Masarua says he doesn't think the communications firm would punish an entire neighborhood in Tel Aviv for stolen cables, which is not a new problem.

Ahmed Masarua, a resident of Arara, runs an insurance agency and also finds himself dealing with prolonged communication breakdowns.

"The phones in my office and at home aren't props, you know. They are the most important work instruments," he says." We wrote three times to Bezeq and all we got in reply was that the matter is being taken care of. Last time, I asked them to get that answer to me in writing. We, and other businesses like us, are losing clients. I'm not responsible for the thieves. If Bezeq can get payment requests to us on time, they should be able to fix breakdowns on time as well."

Bezeq responded that they acted on the matter as soon as they received word of the theft.

"As soon as we were notified of the theft, Bezeq began planning a redeployment of the local communications network, aiming to reconnect local lines as soon as possible for the residents' benefit," the firm said. "Most of the cables stolen are active ones, and their theft disconnects telephone lines in the area. We should note that security officials in Bezek are working in cooperation with the police to find a quick solution for the problem of cable theft in the Wadi Ara area. The problem is particularly severe, since cables are stolen there time after time."

The company also sought to stress that in recent years metal thievery became a nationwide epidemic. "Many companies are targeted, including Bezek, whose underground copper cables are often spirited away," the company said. "We take a grave view of this phenomenon and invest considerable efforts into protecting the service to our customers and our property. We promise to keep fighting the thievery, and call on the public to be vigilant and report to police any suspicious activity or suspicious individuals spotted near the company's installations."

Metal theft has thrived in Israel in recent years, with thieves going as far as stealing memorial sculptures and public art.