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Waze App Denies Sending Israeli Soldiers Into Harm's Way

Waze said the soldiers who triggered a riot in a Palestinian refugee camp disabled a key setting and deviated from the suggested route.
Image: Israeli army vehicle burned in Qalandia
The registration plate of an Israeli army vehicle that was burned during an army raid Monday night in the West Bank refugee camp of Qalandia.Nasser Nasser / AP

The Google-owned navigation company Waze strongly hit back Tuesday at suggestions that its mapping app led two Israeli soldiers into a West Bank refugee camp, triggering a riot that officials said left one person dead and as many as 16 others injured.

IMAGE: Palestinian boy in Qalandia debris
A Palestinian boy among debris Tuesday after clashes at the Qalandia refugee camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.Abbas Momani / AFP — Getty Images

The clashes broke out Monday night after the two soldiers accidentally entered the Qalandia refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, the Israeli Defense Forces said.

A "mob" directed gunfire, rocks and Molotov cocktails at their military vehicle, the IDF said. In a military rescue mission to extract the soldiers, a 22-year-old Palestinian student was killed, four other people were wounded by live ammunition and 12 more were injured by rubber bullets, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

Israel said five Israeli border police officers were injured. A spokesperson told NBC News that the IDF was aware of reports that one person had been killed but wouldn't comment further.

Related: Palestinian Killed as Israeli Soldiers Stray Into West Bank Refugee Camp

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a speech near Tel Aviv that the two soldiers used Waze to get from Jerusalem to the West Bank city of Ramallah 10 miles to the north.

The soldiers weren't familiar with the area, and the app took them by the shortest possible route — which was directly through the refugee camp, Yaalon said.

Waze, an Israeli-founded company that Google bought in 2013 for $1.3 billion, said the soldiers had misused the app.

Waze said its app "includes a specific default setting that prevents routes through areas which are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through." But that setting was disabled, said Waze, which didn't explain how it had determined that.

In any event, "the driver deviated from the suggested route and as a result, entered the prohibited area," Waze said.

Waze noted that there are prominent signs on the road in question prohibiting access to Palestinian-controlled territories by Israelis and said, "Unfortunately, there is no ability to prevent [such incidents] altogether as ultimately some prudence is in the driver's hands."

On that, the two sides appear to agree.

In his speech near Tel Aviv, Yaalon said: "I have always said that if even if you use a navigation program, you still need to know how to navigate with a map."