Violence in the West Bank after Waze led Israeli soldiers into Palestinian danger zone

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A battle broke out just outside of Jerusalem Monday after GPS mapping app Waze led Israeli soldiers into the Kalandia Palestinian refugee camp.

According to several reports, two armed soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Okets unit were traveling in a military vehicle along a route they thought was within the Israel border. Palestinians immediately started throwing rocks and a firebomb at the vehicle and it is believed these actions set the vehicle on fire.

At least one Palestinian died in the clash and 10 others were seriously wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The soldiers managed to escape and scattered in different directions. One soldier was able to use a cell phone to call for help, but the other was still missing, prompting Israel to send more troops and helicopters to the area. Israeli forces found the missing soldier safe in a different location a few hours later.

Google bought the Israel-based routing app Waze for $1 billion more than two years ago. The app is supposed to highlight dangerous areas in the region, but according to initial reports, Waze sent the two soldiers on a route that went past the Israel border and into a war zone.

Waze punched back, claiming the soldiers turned those settings off. And, according to a statement issued to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Waze also said it was the responsibility of drivers to pay attention to road signs and to follow local laws when traveling in those areas.

“[Waze] includes a specific default setting that prevents routes through areas which are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through,” Waze wrote in the AFP statement. “In this case, the setting was disabled. In addition, the driver deviated from the suggested route and, as a result, entered the prohibited area.

“There are also red signs on the road in question that prohibit access to Palestinian-controlled territories (for Israelis). It is the responsibility of every driver to adhere to road and traffic signs and obey local laws.”

Waze is a popular app among Israeli citizens and works on crowdsourced information for the best route. However, it does not offer travel routes along the West Bank or in some of the most dangerous areas along the Israel-Palestine border. The soldiers would have had to turn off the safety settings in order to travel in those areas considered dangerous. Waze may have also been confused about which route to give the soldiers, as many of the areas on either side also have similar names. There are three Kalandias along the Israeli border.

It’s not clear why the soldiers were using Waze, given the obvious safety concerns, instead of paying attention to road signs.

Featured Image: IDF/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE