The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday reiterated previous calls for its soldiers not to rely solely on traffic navigation apps when traveling, and to ensure they are always armed after dark, a day after two soldiers had to be rescued after making a wrong turn into a Palestinian town.
On Monday, two female soldiers mistakenly entered the West Bank town of Tulkarem and sustained mild injuries from rocks thrown at them before they were rescued by local Palestinian police and Defense Ministry officials.
An initial probe into the incident revealed that not only had the two soldiers relied on a navigation app, Channel 2 News reported, but that they had entered Tulkarem unarmed.
The army stressed the importance of carrying weapons, particularly while traveling at night, and of properly studying planned routes before setting out.
Traffic navigation apps are hampered by the fact that many locations in Israel and the West Bank use the same or similar names.
Ramon, for example, is the name both of an IDF base in southern Israel and a Palestinian village near Ramallah. Tapuah, Halhoul and Taibe describe locations both in Israel and the West Bank.
The two soldiers were trying to get to the Beit Lid Junction in the Sharon region, but the application they were using directed them to a village of the same name in the nearby West Bank, according to a Channel 2 report.
In April, two IDF soldiers accidentally drove into Palestinian Beit Fajjar, south of Jerusalem, sparking a brief clash with local residents who pelted the vehicle with rocks, but escaping unharmed and without the need for help.
In March, two Israeli soldiers accidentally drove an army vehicle into the Qalandiya refugee camp, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, sparking clashes in which one Palestinian was killed and 15 were wounded.
In this case, the soldiers had apparently been using a navigation application, specifically Waze, an Israeli-developed navigation app acquired by Google for more than $1 billion in 2013.
After the incident, then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said it was important not to rely too heavily on technology and recommended using a printed map.
At the time, Waze said in a statement to AFP that its app “includes a specific default setting that prevents routes through areas which are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through.”
“In this case, the setting was disabled. In addition, the driver deviated from the suggested route and as a result, entered the prohibited area.”
Waze also came under criticism in 2013 after a glitch sent drivers onto a flooded Tel Aviv highway.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.