2023 Excellence in Immersive and Emerging Technology Storytelling finalist

3D analysis shows how Israeli troops fired into group of civilians

About the Project

“It was a black Wednesday.”

In spare yet stark words, Farid Shaaban captured the afternoon his 16-year-old son, Mohammad, was killed awaiting a ride home after school.

The boy was one of two people killed when Israeli security forces in an armored vehicle fired repeatedly at a group of civilians sheltering between a mosque and a clinic after a Feb. 22 raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. Three people also were injured.

The raid was carried out amid an increase in deadly Israeli military incursions unseen in the occupied West Bank since the end of the most recent Palestinian uprising, in 2005.

In an innovative project, The Washington Post re-created the shooting location within virtual 3D space, coupling skillful modeling and animation with intrepid reporting and elegant storytelling.

The Post reconstruction showed that, while responding to what they claimed was a gunman, Israeli forces fired at least 14 times in four seconds as their Wolf personnel carrier moved down a street and then came to a halt next to a short wall behind which civilians huddled.

The Israeli forces continued firing even after those people would have been visible from the vehicle’s windows, the analysis showed.

The creative and compelling reconstruction published within just 15 days of the shooting.

We spoke with witnesses, obtained previously unpublished videos of the shooting from a bystander and from the Israel Defense Forces, and had audio experts analyze the gunfire. Reporters also reviewed more than 30 videos filmed in Nablus that day.

For the foundation of the project, we took more than 1,500 photos in Nablus and collected geospatial data, which was processed and stitched together using Photogrammetry software to produce a to-scale 3D mesh of the site. The Post imported this mesh into 3D modeling software and added a commercially built, scaled 3D model of a Wolf to the scene and 3D human figures.

We then used perspective plotting tools alongside location and camera-lens metadata — from the photographs and videos that reporters had collected — to add virtual cameras to the 3D scene, By matching the perspective of videos that captured the shooting, we were able to accurately plot the positions of people and animate the Wolf’s path.

We mounted a virtual camera inside the Israeli vehicle to show the perspective from its windows as it moved, revealing that the shooting continued even after those on the stairs would have been visible.