A group of Palestinian cyclists said they were attacked by Israelis in the West Bank after a popular trail app landed them on a remote path dotted with Jewish settlements.
Avid cyclist Amer Kurdi set out on Saturday with his brother and three others on what was supposed to be an 80-km (50-mile) ride, using the cycling, hiking, and mountain biking app Komoot to chart a path north from the Palestinian village of Birzeit.
The West Bank, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, is scattered with Israeli settlements which its 3 million Palestinians mostly cannot enter, as well as checkpoints and military bases necessary for Israel's security.
Over an hour into their ride, Kurdi said Komoot led them east towards a rocky path near the settlement of Shilo. He said a group of Hebrew-speaking men, whom the cyclists later took to be Israeli settlers, approached and asked where they were from.
Kurdi, 30, replied that they were from the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Soon after, the men — Kurdi estimates there were five or six — started throwing stones at them, using T-shirts to hide their faces, Kurdi and his brother, Samer, said.
“The others managed to run away, but I tripped and fell,” Samer, 28, said. “When I got up, a settler was behind me, and he started beating me with a metal rod.”
Photos the cyclists took after the incident, which they reported to police, show Samer’s legs and arms bruised and bloodied.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the incident was under investigation.
Palestinians and Israelis alike complain that navigation apps fail to grasp the West Bank’s complexity, putting stray travelers from both sides at risk.
Two Israeli soldiers were lead into a Palestinian village in 2016 by the popular GPS app Waze and were attacked with rocks.
A similar occurrence happened the following year when a video was released showing a bleeding IDF soldier who accidentally entered a Palestinian village and was attacked by dozens of Palestinians after Waze directed him to drive through the village.
An Israeli civilian was almost lynched in 2007 after a faulty GPS app sent him into Ramallah.
Asked for comment, Komoot said it regretted the incident but that its service is not specifically optimized for route planning “through areas of political unrest."
Amer Kurdi says the incident will not keep him from cycling.
“I’ll wear a camera. I’ll be more careful when using apps,” he said.
“But we won’t stop. We will stand up for our right to bike.”