Bet Hanina Bezeq- Emil Salman
A man repairing a Bezeq phone communications box in Beit Hanina Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010. Photo by Emil Salman
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Thousands of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have been disconnected from Bezeq landline and Internet service for six weeks over the past two months. While residents are complaining about foot-dragging, the company says the real problem might be vandalism.

Many residents were still disconnected as of yesterday. The lines were cut after three routers were vandalized twice in the neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Shoafat. It is not clear who damaged the equipment, which together connected some 1,500 lines.

Residents told Haaretz the phone company took around three weeks to fix the routers each time, using small teams working only several hours a day. But the phone lines of large businesses and vital services such as clinics were reconnected in a matter of days.

The residents said Bezeq operators implied that the company was taking longer than necessary to repair the lines. A Bezeq spokesman told Haaretz that if the problem is recurring vandalism, there is no reason to act until that issue has been resolved.

"When we called Bezeq, they told us there was a core problem and that it would be fixed soon. Later they said someone sabotaged the cables and it would take until November 25 to get them fixed," said Beit Hanina resident Nabil Sharaf, who lost telephone service at the beginning of that month.

"The line came back on December 1, but already on December 6 the Internet was cut off," he said. This time, the company told Sharaf that his and his neighbors' lines would be fixed by December 22. Sharaf, who has studied information technology in the United States, believes the problem could be fixed in two to four days.

Sharaf said once when he phoned the company, a woman told him in English: "Tell the people in Beit Hanina not to vandalize the routers. Bezeq can't spend millions of shekels every time there's sabotage. The company is looking for alternative solutions."