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INVESTIGATIONS

Bombing oil and gas facilities in al-Hodeidah Governorate

April 20, 2022

Bombing oil and gas facilities in al-Hodeidah Governorate

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Incident Summary

  • Incident: bombing oil and gas facilities in al-Hodeidah Governorate
  • Type: Air strikes
  • Location: Oil installations in al-Hodeidah port, a gas station in Al-Qanaws district, north of Al-Hodeidah city.
  • Date: 26 March 2022
  • Time: the first incident: between 03:00 - 04:00 am - the second incident: between 06:00 - 06:45 pm
  • Victims: no victims reported
  • Physical Damage: three fuel filling towers destroyed, filling tanks partially damaged, full and empty gas tanks burnt and damaged.
  • Probable munitions: GBU-31 JDAM
  • Probable violation: Directing attacks against civilian objects. Violation of the principles of Distinction and Proportionality and Advance Warning.
  • Probable responsibility: the Saudi led Coalition

Introduction

From the dawn of 26 March 2022 until its evening, the Saudi-led Coalition launched several air raids, some of which hit two sites of oil facilities in al-Hodeidah Governorate and its port, in response to Houthi attacks targeting Aramco tanks in Jeddah. The raids caused varying damage in oil infrastructure. No civilian casualties reported.

About the area

Al-Hodeidah governorate is one of the most strategic governorates for the Houthis, due to its ports of al-Hodeidah and Saleef, which are the main outlets for oil derivatives and humanitarian aid for civilians in their areas of control. Since December 2018, al-Hodeidah city has been under UN monitoring to implement the Stockholm Agreement signed by the Yemeni government and the Houthis for humanitarian reasons, after the battles approached the vicinity of the city, before the joint forces on the western coast redeployed in the governorate by withdrawing their military forces to the districts of Hays and Khokha, south of Hodeidah, mid-November 2021.

The incident

After oil facilities in Saudi Arabia were attacked by drones and ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis on 25 March 2022, the Coalition warned civilians in al-Hodeidah at dawn on 26 March to not approach any oil sites and facilities in al-Hodeidah, and launched air strikes on several sites in al-Hodeidah and Sanaa governorates.

1 A screenshot of a tweet by the Saudi Press Agency, minutes before the bombing, warning civilians

2 A screenshot of a tweet by “Where’s the explosion now?”, reporting the the places that were bombed

According to online sources, the raids targeted the facility of the Houthi- Yemen Petroleum Company in al-Hodeidah port, a gas station in the Al-Qanaws district, the Salif port, the General Electricity Corporation in al-Hodeidah Governorate, and other sites. Twitter users and TV channels circulated verifiable visual content. This investigation documents and examines only two incidents: bombing the oil company’s facility and the gas station in al-Hodeidah and their potential impact on civilians.

Time

Houthis affiliated Yemen Petroleum Company published a surveillance cameras video showing the moment the filling towers were bombed at the oil company’s facility inside al-Hodeidah port. According to the metadata of the video the time is 03:01:20 am.

A screenshot from the oil company’s video showing the time of targeting the oil facility in al-Hodeidah port

While the bombing of the gas station in al-Qanaws district, north of al-Hodeidah city was between 06:00:00 and 06:45:00 pm, according to open source data.

4 A screenshot of a tweet by “Here is the news”, minutes after bombing the gas station in al-Qanaws.

Location

The oil facility in al-Hodeidah port contains more than one filling tower of oil derivatives at the targeted location. The targeted location can be determined inside the facility based on visual evidence at coordinates: 14.829452406776344, 42.93868350315105

An image from the Twitter of the manager of the Yemen Petroleum Company, and a satellite image from Google Earth, of the location of the missile impact in al-Hodeidah port. The gas station is located in Al-Qanaws District, north of Al-Hodeidah city, at coordinates: 15.440491, 43.123788, more than 75 km from al-Hodeidah port, according to the visual evidence.

Photos from Mohammed abo Shahab’s twitter

Probable responsibility

After the Houthis targeted Aramco facilities in Jeddah and electricity station in Samtah, the Coalition issued a warning to civilians at 2:49 am on 26 March 2022 not to approach the oil installations in al-Hodeidah, and announced at 4:21 am that it launched air strikes against “sources of threat” in al-Hodeidah and Sanaa.

7 8 A screenshot of a tweet by the Saudi Press Agency stating that the Coalition is “conducting air strikes against “sources of threat” in al-Hodeidah and Sanaa”

The coalition stated that it destroyed a Houthi weapons depot in Saleef port after transferring weapons there, in addition to destroying booby-trapped marches in Saleef and al-Hodeidah port.

9 A screenshot of a tweet by Saudi News

The Coalition said that the Houthis used the al-Hodeidah port as a launching platform for the drones that targeted Aramco in Jeddah and the electricity facility in Samtah.

10 A screenshot of a tweet by the Saudi News

The nature of the sites targeted by the Coalition correspond to the sites targeted by the Houthis inside Saudi Arabia (oil tanks - power station). The sites hit by the Coalition does not seem like military sites for drones, nor did the Coalition provide any evidence of the military use of the oil and gas facilities that were bombed.

11 A screenshot of a tweet by Independent Arabia

At the time of the attacks, the commander of the Joint Forces was Saudi Lieutenant-General Mutlaq bin Salem Al-Azaima, and the commander of Joint Forces Operations was Emirati Major General Saleh Mohammed Saleh bin Megrin Al Ameri.

Ammunition

The oil company facility in al-Hodeidah port was hit by two missile strikes, as shown in the surveillance cameras video published by the Yemen Petroleum Company and Al-Masirah Mubasher YouTube. The blast pattern indicates that two types of ammunition were used in the attack.

First missile:

The surveillance camera video shows glowing light at the moment of the missile’s arrival, and then a semi-oval blast wave formed over the filling tower, which indicates that the missile exploded before hitting the ground. That explains the absence of a crater in the ground.

A GIF from the YouTube video published by the Yemen Petroleum Company showing the first missile explosion

A simulation model the first missile explosion

Second missile:

The second missile appears a few seconds after the first explosion near one of the pillars of the filling tower. It ignites gradually in fractions of a second and then explodes upward leaving a crater and causing the tower’s structure tilted upward in the same direction as the blast wave, as shown in Al Masirah Mubasher video.

A GIF from Al-Masirah Mubahser of the second missile

15 A screenshot from Al Masirah video of the crater left by the second missile

16 A screenshot from Al Masirah video of the filling tower next to which the second missile exploded

The Ansar Allah Media Center published a video on YouTube showing the visit of an international team to the oil company’s facilities in al-Hodeidah port. The video shows remnants of ammunition from the second missile to be of The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GBU-31, made by the American Company Boeing. The US State Department agreed to sell it to Saudi Arabia in February 2015, along with other munitions.

17 A screenshot from the video by Ansar Allah Media Center on Twitter, showing the remnants of the second missile in the facilities of the Yemen Petroleum Company in al-Hodeidah port.

18 A photo from Cat-uxo website of the GBU-31 JDAM

19 A photo from Air Force website of the GBU-31 JDAM

The same ammunition, according to Alhawyah website, was used in the bombing of the waste collection area in Bani Matar, Sana’a Governorate, on 18 February. The GBU-31 munitions are compatible with Saudi F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft.

20 A photo from Alhawya website

Physical damage

Al-Hodeidah port:

Three filling platforms were completely destroyed, the emergency water tank was punctured by shrapnel, other empty oil tanks were punctured by shrapnel, and a pipe connected to the tanks was damaged.

Screenshots from Al Masirah Mubasher YouTube video, showing the damage to the facilities of the Yemen Petroleum Company, al-Hodeidah port

Al Qanawis Gas Station:

The attacks on the gas station in al- Qanawis caused the burning of a gas tank and the destruction of others, and damaged a part of the station’s wall.

24 A screenshot from a video by Abayan Al-Youm on Twitter.

A photo from Mohammed abo Shahab’s Twitter, showing the destruction of the gas station in al- Qanawis district

Victims

No casualties were reported in the bombing of the oil company’s facilities in al-Hodeidah port and the gas station in al- Qanawis district.

Impact on civilians

Air raids on oil installations in the governorates of Sanaa and al-Hodeidah coincided with a stifling crisis in oil derivatives and household gas in Houthi-controlled areas. The raids that put three filling towers out of service and damaged fuel tanks in al-Hodeidah can affect the fuel storage and supply, which in turn disrupts fuel access by civilians.

Probable violations of international law

The nature of the targeted sites and the timing of the attacks suggests that the Coalition conducted retaliation, revenge or belligerent reprisals in reaction to allegedly unlawful acts by the Houthis, hours after they targeted oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. However reprisals against civilian objects in reaction to unlawful attacks are prohibited under international law. The Coalition attacked and damaged facilities that provide desperately needed fuel for the Yemeni population’s survival, including for power generators for hospitals and pumping water to civilian residences. Targeting objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population is prohibited. Under international law, civilian objects are protected against attacks, unless and for such time as they are military objectives. These attacks may have violated core principles in international law of Proportionality that prohibits attacks that may cause damage to civilian objects which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, and Distinction which requires making distinction, under any circumstances between civilian objects and military objectives. Under international law, “effective advance warning shall be given of attacks which may affect the civilian population.” The Coalition’s advance warning of impending attacks did not appear to be effective or meaningful. It came via Twitter, and not as a direct notification to civilians or authorities in the target area. The time between the warning and the attacks was also insufficient for civilians to respond adequality to the warning, especially that the warning was first published at 2:49 in the morning and the attacks started within 12 minutes after the warning. On the same day, the Coalition bombed areas in other governorates about which it did not warn killing civilans. This suggests that al-Hodeidah warning gave false safety to civilians in other governorates, and that Advance Warning was exploited to deceive civilians not to protect them. It seems that the Coalition’s purpose of this warning was to propagate that it is taking measures to protect civilians and respect international law or to use Advance Warning for military deception. However, the warning was not effective nor appropriate in al-Hodeidah. The Coalition should use effective methods of advance warning. The purpose of the warning is to enable civilians to protect themselves from an impending attack.

Conclusion

Yemeni Archive concluded that the Saudi-led Coalition bombed two sites for oil derivatives in al-Hodeidah Governorate as part of a series of raids it launched on Sanaa and al-Hodeidah after the Houthis bombed an Aramco oil facility in Jeddah. The facilities of the Yemeni Petroleum Company in al-Hodeidah port were hit by two air strikes, destroying three filling towers and causing varying damage to some tanks. In one of the strikes, a US-made GBU-31 JDAM was used, while a gas station in the Qanawis district was hit by an air strike that destroyed gas tanks. No civilian casualties were reported in both raids. Unless the Coalition proves under an independent investigation that the targeted sites were used for military purposes and that the attacks were proportionate, those attacks may amount to war crimes against civilian objects and civilians.

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