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

The Orange phone system, operated by Partner Communications, has barred Home Front Command SMS messages during this week’s Turning Point 5 national drill because of fears of damage to the phones.

The Home Front, part of the IDF, is interested in using SMS text messaging to back up or even replace the siren, which often does not work properly or  is not heard by people indoors or in their cars, and does not reach certain neighborhoods effectively.

The Home Front wants to sends SMS alerts on emergencies, such as incoming missile attacks. Cellcom and Pelephone have agreed to allow their systems accept the test SMS messages during the drill, but Partner rejected IDF assurances that its customers' phones would not be damaged.

"Partner is unnecessarily afraid of the test,” said senior IDF officers quoted by Globes. They blamed the Communications Ministry for not forcing Partner to participate in the national defense drill, but the ministry said it does not have coercive authority.

The business news site quoted one army officer as saying, "This would never have happened in the United States because everything there is regulated. The Ministry of Communications apparently has no real power over the cellular companies and is too weak to affect any changes."

The IDF said it would take less than three years for the estimated 10 million mobile phones in Israel to include the technical ability to receive the Home Front SMS text messaging system.  Most Israelis replace their cell phones at least once every two years.

Partner Communications angrily rejected IDF accusations and said that the military should worry more about stopping flotillas to Gaza instead of spending time “slandering” the company.