Two Israeli soldiers who accidentally drove an army vehicle into Qalandiya refugee camp Monday, sparking deadly clashes between Palestinians and IDF forces after a rescue operation, were apparently guided by Waze, the popular Israeli-made GPS navigation application.
“The soldiers were apparently using Waze,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday, speaking at the New Tech exhibition for military products.
“I learned ages ago the importance of navigating with the aid of a real map, and mainly to know the surrounding area and not to rely too heavily on technology which can lead the user astray,” Ya’alon added.
IDF spokesman Moti Almoz said earlier the army was investigating why the soldiers had entered the refugee camp, and whether they had used the navigation app.
There was no immediate comment from Waze, an Israeli-made application bought by Google in 2013 for over $1 billion. The crowdsourced application, which routes drivers based on traffic reports and other information, is highly popular in Israel, where commuters and other rely on it daily.
The application has a feature that allows avoiding Palestinian-controlled territories. It is not clear if that option was being used when the noncombat soldiers were directed into the Qalandiya refugee camp directly north of Jerusalem.
As the soldiers drove through, a group of Palestinians attacked their vehicle with rocks and firebombs. The jeep caught fire, forcing the two to flee the scene.
As they fled, the pair separated. One of them made phone contact almost immediately, and within 20-30 minutes the rescuers had reached him. The second one took about an hour to make contact, and then he was picked up, the IDF said.
Considerable forces scrambled to the area, sparking violent clashes between the IDF and Palestinians and resulting in 10 wounded Israeli soldiers, of whom one was injured moderately and the rest lightly.
Palestinian news agencies report 10 injured civilians and one dead. The Palestinian man killed in the skirmish was identified as 22-year-old Iyad Amr Sajdiyeh, an Al-Quds University student from Qalandiya.
In 2013, Waze came under criticism after a glitch sent scads of drivers to a flooded Tel Aviv highway. It has also been criticized by locals for sending large numbers of drivers through residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles.