Army says misusing Waze led assaulted soldiers to Palestinian city

Investigation finds IDF duo disobeyed orders and disabled option on GPS app that prevents entering dangerous areas; Waze denies responsibility

An army investigation found that two soldiers who were attacked and beaten by a mob after accidentally entering a Palestinian city were led there by using a GPS app, the IDF said Monday, but the app developers said they were not responsible and implied that the soldiers were to blame.

The incident unfolded earlier Monday in the West Bank city of Jenin, when the soldiers were pelted with rocks and one had her gun stolen, after they drove their military vehicle into the city’s outskirts, and were immediately identified by locals.

The soldiers had been using the Waze app, which relies on user-supplied data to help drivers find the fastest routes and avoid traffic jams or speed cameras, the army said, but one of the soldiers had disabled a feature preventing the app from leading them to areas defined as dangerous, in this case, Palestinian-controlled areas.

Waze screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Waze screenshot (Courtesy)

They also ignored street signs declaring the area off-limits for Israeli citizens.

There have been several incidents in the past of soldiers entering Palestinian towns due to directions from GPS apps, and the army has barred soldiers from relying solely on them.

When the two soldiers, a man and a woman, drove into the city, local residents began attacking the car with rocks and chairs, breaking the windows and bloodying the soldiers.

Waze in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Waze in action. (Courtesy)

The Israeli-developed navigation app, which was sold to Google in 2013, said it was not to blame for the incident.

“We cannot comment on details of a specific ride, but it should be noted that the application contains a default setting that prevents navigation through areas marked as dangerous or forbidden for Israelis,” Waze said in a statement carried by Hadashot.

“There is an additional alert that pops up when entering such an area,” it added.

Before the riot began, the female soldier could be seen holding an M-16 assault rifle, without a magazine, across her lap. The army said forces were searching the area for the weapon which was grabbed during the incident.

An Israeli soldier can be seen holding an M-16 assault rifle, without a magazine, on her lap, before it was stolen during an attack on her car, after she and another servicemen accidentally entered the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank on February 12, 2018. (Screen capture)

Videos from the scene showed swarms of people surrounding the vehicle and clawing at the soldiers inside it, including one person who appeared to try grabbing the female soldier by her hair.

The female soldier was taken to a nearby Israeli hospital for treatment, the army said.

Palestinian security forces could be seen in the videos protecting the Israeli soldiers during the riot. They also helped them leave the area.

Deputy Governor of Jenin Kamal Abu al-Rub said the IDF vehicle was attacked by Palestinians for “nationalist motives.”

He confirmed PA policemen rushed to the scene to secure the safe exit of the vehicle from the city.

The IDF said the car was brought out of the city through coordination with the Civil Administration, a Defense Ministry unit that acts as a liaison between the military and Palestinians.

Markings on the IDF vehicle indicated that they were noncombat soldiers from a support unit.

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