The initial findings of an IDF investigation into an incident last night in which two soldiers were extricated under heavy fire from Qalandiya after accidentally straying into the Arab town, has found that all Israeli forces involved acted properly and professionally, and praised the two lost soldiers for their quick reactions.
As reported earlier Tuesday, the two soldiers got lost while traveling in a civilian car from Bet El to an IDF base north of Jerusalem, where they were immediately attacked by Arab rioters hurling rocks, firebombs and explosives. A rescue force sent to extricate them then came under heavy gunfire and returned fire; in all, one Arab terrorist was killed and 10 wounded, while five Israeli rescuers were wounded, one seriously.
At one point, fearing the two may have been abducted, the IDF enacted the so-called "Hannibal Protocol", enabling forces to use all means necessary to prevent their comrades falling into captivity.
Regardless of who was to blame for the initial error itself, however, investigators from the IDF Binyamin Battalion – which operates in the Binyamin Region in Samaria where the incident took place – praised the soldiers' reaction to their rapidly deteriorating situation.
The soldiers immediately abandoned their car after rioters set it alight, and fled in opposite directions after quickly grabbing their weapons. The investigation found that they had acted properly, and that by splitting up and fleeing immediately they had saved themselves from likely death.
"Each of them used his weapon, acted to save himself and thus acted correctly," investigators said in a statement.
However, the investigation also found that the soldiers had not used their GPS equipment properly, leading to the incident in the first place – and backing claims by Waze that they had only got lost after failing to program their app to avoid dangerous areas.
"It was the soldiers' responsibility to mark the route so that they would not pass through Area A," it said.
In addition, echoing Defense Minister Yaalon's comments following the incident, the investigation noted that the soldiers should have first studied the route themselves beforehand, and not relied purely on their GPS system.
The report found that the entire incident lasted for about one hour in total. It took rescuers 40 minutes after being alerted to locate first soldier – who was hiding in a nearby courtyard – and another 20 minutes to find the second, who had fled in the direction of the Jewish town of Kochav Ya'akov.
With that, investigators underlined the fact that the two soldiers were to blame for getting lost in the first place, and that the investigation is still ongoing.