Waze, Israeli Military at Odds Over Why Soldiers Ended Up in Qalandiyah, Sparking Riot

IDF launches internal investigation into why two soldiers entered Palestinian refugee camp, setting off clashes in which one Palestinian was killed, several wounded.

Gili Cohen
Oded Yaron
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Israeli soldiers extricated from Palestinian refugee camp after their jeep was hit by firebomb in Qalandiyah. March 1, 2016.
Israeli soldiers extricated from Palestinian refugee camp after their jeep was hit by firebomb in Qalandiyah. March 1, 2016.Credit: Midabrim Communications - Simchastream
Gili Cohen
Oded Yaron

Two Israel Defense Forces soldiers who had entered the Palestinian refugee camp of Qalandiyah overnight were traveling with the navigation application Waze, an initial IDF investigation showed.

The two soldiers, from the IDF's elite Oketz unit, were armed and traveling in a military vehicle, according to the army. After entering the refugee camp, the vehicle was hit by rocks and a firebomb, setting it ablaze. The soldiers managed to escape the vehicle, but separated. 

One was able to use a cellphone to make contact while hiding in the courtyard of a house and call for back up, while the other was found only an hour after the incident.

According to Waze, the soldiers diverted from the route suggested by the app. Further, Waze said that the app comes with a feature that highlights dangerous areas, adding that the soldiers opted to turn off the warning feature.

Waze also told Haaretz that it is the responsibility of drivers to follow road signs and local laws in the areas they travel. On all roads leading to areas under control of the Palestinian Authority, there are red signs that stand out at the road side, stating that Israeli residents are forbidden from driving in the area.

According to Waze, the company is in direct and continuous contact with the relevant authorities to reduce the likelihood of such incidents, but that it is impossible to prevent them completely.

Directives require that all soldiers travelling in the West Bank know the route that they are supposed to take. Before setting out, someone is to be put in charge of travel and to be responsible for proper navigation to the destination. 

The use of Waze can pose a problem in such circumstances in the West Bank if the proposed route that Waze suggests is not evaluated.  Waze does provide an option that excludes highways in Area A, which is under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, and Area B, which is under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority. But when it comes to travel between A-Ram and Adam, which was the two soldiers’ route, sometimes Waze directs motorists toward A-Ram, the route the soldiers took.

Violent clashes with local Palestinians ensued as security forces attempted to extract the two soldiers and the burning vehicle. One Palestinian was killed by live fire while another four were reportedly wounded, also by live fire and six were wounded by rubber bullets.

Five Israeli officers were hurt, according to medical officials.

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