Palestinian app alerts drivers to Israeli checkpoints

Doroob Navigator allows West Bank Palestinians to avoid roadblocks set by Israel, which limit their mobility and have damaged the economy

Mohammad Abdel Haleem, Chief Executive Officer of Doroob Technologies, uses Doroob Navigator application as he drives his car at an Israeli checkpoint in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 31, 2019. Picture taken July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
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Palestinian drivers in the occupied West Bank no longer need to go through Israeli checkpoints thanks to a new, locally developed mobile app.

Doroob Navigator, which was launched in June by tech entrepreneur Mohammed Abdel Haleem, takes drivers through routes that mainstream navigation providers often miss.

Just like other mainstream applications such as Google Maps and Waze, Doroob reports traffic issues. But it also includes information on pop-up Israeli police and military checkpoints or road closures, allowing Palestinian drivers to find alternative routes to bypass crippling checkpoint traffic and circumvent settlements, which most Palestinian vehicles cannot enter.

The app's algorithm combines user-submitted reports with manual inputs by engineering staff.

Roadblocks set by Israel limit Palestinian mobility and have damaged their economy, the World Bank has previously said.

"Other apps might say the only way to drive between certain Palestinian cities is to cut through a settlement," Mr Abdel Haleem told Reuters. "We’re trying to change that.

“We had to design our maps completely from scratch. The wall, checkpoints, settlements ... Existing mapping software could never account for the complexity here."

The app, which has generated 22,000 users in two months, is funded by Ideal, a Ramallah-based transportation and automation software company, also headed by Mr Abdel Haleem.

The Palestinian entrepreneur says he hopes to now develop a delivery feature for the app.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and cites security concerns as the reason for the establishment of a number of checkpoints.

Some checkpoints are permanently at the entrance of villages and cities, but others pop up when tensions between the two sides escalate.

Doroob also works in Gaza, but most of the app's users are in the West Bank.

Palestinians in the West Bank have often relied on Facebook groups and word of mouth to find out about traffic and road closures.