Israeli Soldiers Get Lost Using Waze App, and Clashes Follow

Two Israeli soldiers led astray by their smartphone navigation app accidentally wandered into an unruly area of the West Bank, provoking clashes and a gun battle that left a Palestinian man dead.

The soldiers, from the army’s canine unit, were following Waze, a navigation app, late Monday when they drove into an area bordering the Kalandia refugee camp, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The app is popular among Israelis, but soldiers are under standing orders not to use GPS services in areas with which they are not familiar, said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military.

“They should be using maps, and they should know the route,” he said.

Armed, in uniform and driving a clearly identifiable military vehicle, they were quickly attacked by Palestinians, who apparently suspected that the soldiers were part of a military raid.

The Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs and set the vehicle ablaze, the military said Tuesday. The soldiers, who were on an administrative task, abandoned their vehicle and fled separately on foot.

Relatives of Iyad Sajadiyya during his funeral at the Kalandia refugee camp in the West Bank on Tuesday. CreditAtef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency

One called for help from his cellphone and was rescued within 20 minutes, according to the military. His companion had left his phone in their sport utility vehicle. Out of contact, the military had feared he might have been abducted, prompting Israel to send more forces, including helicopters and surveillance drones into the area.

The missing soldier was eventually found in a valley between the refugee camp and a nearby Jewish settlement.

When Israeli troops came to retrieve the abandoned vehicle, clashes broke out between soldiers and local Palestinians, lasting until the early hours of the morning.

A 22-year-old Palestinian man, Iyad Sajadiyya, was shot and killed, according to Maan, a Palestinian news outlet. Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defense minister, who was attending a technology conference on Tuesday, said that Mr. Sajadiyya had been armed.

It was unclear why the soldiers were using Waze, a smartphone app developed in Israel and acquired by Google for more than $1 billion in 2013, to navigate in the West Bank.

Waze told Agence France-Presse in a statement that the soldiers must have veered off the route suggested by the application.

Waze’s default setting does not provide navigation in areas of the West Bank considered dangerous for Israelis; the soldiers would have had to turn off the app’s “safe mode” to use it around Kalandia.

Colonel Lerner said that the episode was under review, and that the military wanted to know, among other things, “how they ended up there and what were their orders for getting from A to B.”

Mr. Yaalon, the defense minister, warned against relying too much on technology to navigate potentially dangerous areas. Waze, which uses crowd-sourced information from its users to suggest the best routes, “does not take into account all of the considerations,” he said. At the same time, Mr. Yaalon acknowledged that, “not a small amount of technology was involved” in ultimately finding the soldiers.

Waze does not distinguish among the different areas of the West Bank’s political map once the safe mode is disabled, making it potentially perilous for Israelis and Palestinians who rely on it inside the territory.

The West Bank is a mosaic of Palestinian-ruled areas that Israelis may not enter without prior authorization, Jewish settlements where Palestinians are forbidden without permits, and Israeli military checkpoints and border crossings.

Waze also tends to confuse Palestinian and Israeli areas, which often have the same, or similar, names.

In June, two other Israeli soldiers who were using the app accidentally entered the Palestinian city of Tulkarm after they typed in “Beit Lid,” the name of a village near the Tulkarm area of the West Bank and the name of a road junction in Israel.