GPS Signals in Tel Aviv Go Haywire as Israel Fears Iranian Missile Strikes

Mike Powers

GPS signals in Tel Aviv, Israel were scrambled Thursday, causing services like smartphone maps and food delivery to go haywire, according to a new report from the Times of Israel. And while it hasn’t been officially confirmed, it appears the Israeli military may be responsible for the GPS disruptions as the country anticipates a retaliatory missile strike from Iran in the coming days.

“What wartime GPS scrambling looks like,” one Tel Aviv resident wrote on X. “I took a 6-minute trip on a rental scooter in Tel Aviv and the app thinks I traveled 200km to Beirut.”

It became common for Israel to scramble GPS signals over its northern airspace after the terrorist attacks of October 7, 2023, in an effort to confuse missiles launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon. But Thursday’s GPS spoofing—which interfered with apps like Waze, Google Maps, and Gett Taxi—appeared to be the first time the tactic was deployed in the major city of Tel Aviv since the war began.

Israel is believed to have been behind a missile strike on Iran’s embassy in Damascus, Syria on Monday which killed Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a high-ranking member of Iran’s military. Israel has denied being behind the strike but U.S. officials have made it clear they think Israel launched the attack and have signaled to Iran that America had no involvement.

That attack in Syria has caused Israel to prepare for a potential retaliatory strike that could happen relatively soon. In fact, Amos Yadlin, a former high-ranking intelligence chief in Israel, told Israel’s CTech news outlet he expects Iran may try to strike Israel on Friday, the last day of Ramadan.

“I will not be surprised if Iran will act tomorrow. Don’t panic. Don’t run to the shelters,” Yadlin told CTech, citing Israel’s robust missile defense system. “Be tuned for tomorrow and then, depending on the consequences of the attack, it may escalate.”

As Bloomberg notes, any direct strike from Iran on a major Israeli city would be an escalation that risks widening the war, which started on October 7 after Hamas launched attacks that killed roughly 1,200 Israelis. Another 240 Israelis were taken hostage. At least 32,600 Palestinians have died in the ensuing war in Gaza, according to the United Nations.

The U.S. has conducted GPS spoofing exercises, though there are no known cases of the country using it in war. Ukraine, Russia, and China have also deployed the tactic in recent years. But it’s not still clear whether Israel’s attempt at confusing an Iranian rocket will work. The world may find out sooner rather than later.

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