(The Hill) – Tech giants Google and Apple have disabled some features in their mapping applications in Israel and the Gaza Strip, as tensions ramp up ahead of an imminent invasion of the area currently controlled by militant group Hamas, the companies confirmed Monday.
Hamas, which the U.S. recognizes as a terrorist organization, launched an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing thousands of Israelis and resulting in around 200 more being taken hostage and transported back to the Gaza Strip.
In response, Israel has launched aerial and naval attacks on Gaza, an area controlled by Hamas. The Gaza Health Ministry says the resulting reprisals have killed over 5,000 people. Israeli military commanders have said a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip will happen soon.
Sources told Bloomberg Monday that the company is removing real-time crowding data in Israel and Gaza at the request of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), noting that live traffic information could previously reveal the movements of Israeli armed forces.
Google’s actions will restrict info on its Google Maps and Waze products. Apple Inc.’s own map service, Apple Maps, also complied with the IDF’s request.
In a statement to The Hill, a Google Maps spokesperson said that drivers will still be able to use the navigation system to receive estimated times of arrival (ETA) based on their live traffic conditions.
“As we have done previously in conflict situations and in response to the evolving situation in the region, we have temporarily disabled the ability to see live traffic conditions and busyness information out of consideration for the safety of local communities,” spokesperson Caroline Bourdeau said in a statement.
“Anyone navigating to a specific place will still get routes and ETAs that take current traffic conditions into account,” Bourdeau said.
The company took a similar approach in Ukraine after Russia invaded the country in February 2022.
It’s been over two weeks since Hamas attacked Israeli communities bordering the Gaza strip, killing 1,400 Israelis, including hundreds of civilians in their homes, at a bus stop and at a music festival, and taking hundreds of hostages.