Young cellphone user in Jerusalem
Young cellphone user in JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

It's a black Chanukah for Cellcom: an estimated three million clients of Israel's largest cellular phone company have been unable to send or receive calls and text messages since early Wednesday afternoon. The company said the problem was caused by a fault in the company's core program.

Cellcom Director Amos Shapira said in a press conference that the company is not ruling out the possibility that its software was intentionally sabotaged.

Speaking on Army Radio in the afternoon, Shapira said: “I will not go back [home] to light [Chanukah] candles until the problem is taken care of. I estimate it will happen in a matter of hours.” 

"These are very complex systems, so fixing them takes many hours,” he explained. “This is the most serious malfunction the company has known since it was founded.”

He said dozens of engineers and prgrammers were hard at work fixing the malfunction but could not say for sure that the system would not be down for days.

Clients affected by the failure who attempt to dial out receive a message saying that their phone has no reception. People calling the affected clients receive messages saying the network is busy.

If you are calling an Israeli number that begins with the area code 52 (or 052), you are calling a Cellcom number.