Israel condemns satnav use after ‘lost’ soldiers attacked again in Palestine
Wed 14 Sep 2016
The Israeli Defense Forces have re-emphasised advice that soldiers not rely on satnav technology after two female soldiers ended up under attack in Palestinian territory.
Unarmed, the soldiers inadvertently entered Tulkarem, a West Bank settlement on Monday, after following directions from an unnamed navigation app. Locals threw rocks at them, inflicting mild injuries, before the pair were rescued by officials from the Ministry of Defense, acting with local police.
They had been attempting to reach the Beit Lid junction in Sharon but were instead directed to a Palestinian village with the same name, though they got no further than Tulkarem.
The Times Of Israel notes that conventional satnav services are greatly hampered by the duplication of place-names in the region, observing that ‘Ramon’ is the name both of an Israel Defense Forces base in the South, and a Palestinian town near Ramallah. Other Israeli/West Bank geographical duplicates include Halhoul, Taibe and Tapuah.
A similar, but far more damaging incident occurred in March when two Israeli soldiers drove directly into a Qalandiya refugee camp after following directions from Waze, an Israel-specific navigation app which was bought by Google in 2013. In that incident, one Palestinian was killed and 15 others wounded.
In response to the March incident, Waze commented officially that the app includes settings specifically designed to prevent route-settings which go through prohibited or hazardous areas, but that in the incident concerned, that setting had been disabled by the users.
In 2013 Waze also sent drivers into a flood area.
Another similar incident occurred in April when two IDF soldiers ended up in the Palestinian Beit Fajjar region and were likewise pelted with rocks, though escaping without injury or aid. Following this incident, Moshe Ya’alon, the defense minister at the time, advised military personnel to avoid technological navigation aids and rely on printed maps.
After Monday’s incident, the army also re-emphasised that soldiers should not travel unarmed, most particularly for night journeys.