Waze GPS Smartphone Malfunction Sparks Deadly Firefight Between Israeli Soldiers And Palestine Fighters

A firefight broke out in a Palestine neighborhood Monday when two Israeli soldiers mistakenly wandered into enemy territory after taking directions from Waze, a GPS smartphone application. Supplementary Israeli forces had to forcefully enter the West Bank to rescue the missing soldiers. The clashes left one Palestinian dead and ten injured. At least ten Israeli soldiers were also injured in the resulting melee.

As Yahoo News reports, the two soldiers had been navigating their way with Waze — a navigational app. Waze, originally known as FreeMap Israel, was designed and developed as a mapping tool for Israel before it was acquired by Google for $996 million in 2013.

Israel Palestine Gunfire GPS The Waze app. [Image via Shutterstock/kenary820]The smartphone app has a setting option of providing the fastest and the safest routes by relying on crowdsourcing. But where the app is not widely used, like in West Bank territory, it can face serious limitations.

The setting that was meant to warn the soldiers about the areas they were meant to drive through had been disabled. This made the soldiers deviate from the safest route and enter hostile territory. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, spokesperson for the Israeli army, said the missing soldiers belonged to a noncombat unit.

It remains unclear how these soldiers wobbled into the Qalandiya refugee camp tucked in between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. The preferred route was to approach a separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank accessed through an Israeli checkpoint. But the soldiers drifted into the refugee camp and were besieged by an angry mob throwing Molotov cocktails and stones. The military vehicle was stormed from different sides and caught fire. To make matters worse, when the soldiers escaped, they fled in opposite directions.

Fortunately, one of the soldiers had a cellphone and called for backup. Within 30 minutes he was tracked by a crack team of Israeli police and soldiers. The second soldier was found within the hour at an Israeli settlement. But the search and rescue operation had disintegrated, a fierce battle now raged as Palestinians armed with automatic weapons had joined the fray.

During the altercation, the “Hannibal protocol” was initiated, which allows soldiers to heighten their levels of alertness, boost the number of security forces in the vicinity, and “carry out an extraction as quickly as possible in order to avoid further incident,” Lerner explained. This measure has been criticized because it allows excessive military measures to stop soldiers from being abducted by the enemy. Iyad Omar Sajadiyya, a 22-year-old student at al-Quds University, was shot in the head.

A witness described Qalandiya as a war zone.

“There was a lot of traffic and you could hear the shooting like rain falling. Bullets were coming from every direction. Suddenly, a large number of soldiers arrived and about 20 armored jeeps stormed the camp.”

A former military leader of the area, Gadi Shamni, speaking to Israel Radio, said “the refugee camp was a symbol of Palestine resistance and had become a no man’s land were neither Israeli authorities nor the Palestine Authority were in control. This vacuum attracts violent gangs and a lot of armed people. There are incidents of shooting almost every evening certainly when the Israeli military enters Qalandiya.”

Tensions between Israeli and Palestine have skyrocketed in the last five months with stabbings, shootings, and vehicular assaults by Palestinians on Israelis occurring almost daily. The violence has left three foreign nationals and 29 Israelis dead. On the other hand, 165 Palestinians have been killed during clashes with the military and during attacks on Israeli citizens.

[Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images]