Bombing a residential house in Mawza district during the Eid daysOctober 25, 2023
A missile hit a civilian's residential home in the western Taiz governorate.
- Incident: Bombing a residential house in Mawza district during the Eid days
- Location: Al-Majsh Al-Ala village, Al-Awashiqa area, Mawza district, western Taiz governorate
- Date: 22 April 2023
- Time: between 09:45 - 17:38 local time
- Victims: 3 civilians killed, including a woman and a child, 9 others wounded
- Physical Damage: almost total destruction of a house
- Potential munition: 9M133 Kornet or DEHLAVIEH guided missile
- Potentially Responsible: Ansar Allah Houthi forces
On 22 April 2023, local media and social media posts shared reports of a house hit by a missile strike in the Al-Majsh Al-Ala village amidst a family gathering celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, resulting in the deaths of 3 civilians and 9 injured as well as significant destruction to civilian residential housing. Claims indicate that the Ansar Allah Houthi forces are responsible given that the incident took place in the Al-Awashqah area of the Mawza’ district in the western Taiz governorate, a region controlled by the Joint Forces in the western coast.
About the area
Al-Majsh is a village located in Al-Awashiqah area, Mawza’ district, western Taiz governorate. It is under the control of the Joint Forces in the western coast supported by the Saudi-led coalition. It is one of the villages close to the engagement lines in Al-Barah front, about 3 km away from the positions of the Ansar Allah Houthi forces north of the area.
A screenshot from Live Map website showing the military forces’ control points in Mawza district and the surrounding areas on 22 April 2023. Ozlat Al-Awashiqa - where the impacted house belongs is shown in the red area, while Mawza the district is under the blue area . Red is under the control of the Ansar Allah Houthi forces, Blue is under the control of the Joint Forces in the western coast supported by the Saudi-led coalition. Photo taken in June 2023 by Yemeni Archive.
Yemeni Archive conducted this investigation based on:
- Collecting, preserving, and analyzing videos and photos from social media and news websites published on the day of the attack and in the days following it.
- Determining the date and time of the attack through advanced searches on Twitter and TweetedAt which is an open tool that extracts date and time from the tweet ID by reverse-engineering, confirming the local time when the first tweet about the attack was posted, as well as collecting information about weather conditions using World Weather Online, satellite imagery analysis as Open street Map, and Google earth Pro , and analysis of photos taken of the attack site on the day of the incident which show unusually cloudy weather for 22 April 2023.
- Determining the geographical location of the house by searching for the name of Al-Awashiqa area in Open Street Map, as it has more accurate data on names of local areas than Google Maps and Google Earth, then specifying a search range of 1.5 km around the village and identifying the distinctive visual identifiers such as a mountain range that appeared in the visual content and comparing it to the mountains in the region via subsea level view in Google Earth that showed the mountains display similar features.
- Determining the direction of arrival of the ammunition that hit the house, by analyzing the angle of penetration into the house from several possibilities and projecting the data on Google Earth, as it is clear that the shelling hit the front door of the house that faces north, and it seems that the direct impact point was on the wall facing northwest or northeast of the house.
- Identification of the probable alleged perpetrator based on analysis of the trajectory of the ammunition, as revealed by the location of damage and evidence of impact, the location of the house, and the area control information and the military position of the periphery of the area.
On Saturday 22 April 2023, the official spokesperson for the National Resistance Forces stated on his Twitter account that the Ansar Allah Houthi forces targeted a civilian house (Abdul Basit Al-Habashi) in Al-Majsh Al-Ala village, Mawza district, west of Taiz governorate, killing 3 and injuring 9 others, most of whom were members of one family. According to the source, the attack took place on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, while the family was receiving a group of people from the family who came to exchange Eid greetings.
The date and time of the attack
Photos and videos show that the attack took place during daylight hours on 22 April 2023, the second day of Eid al-Fitr. Different combinations of search terms were used in the advanced search on Twitter and through Who Posted What search tool in Facebook.
Advanced search on Twitter showed that the first tweet regarding the incident was published by the account of Muhammad Ali Qazeef, where he referred to the civilian casualties caused by Ansar Allah Houthi bombing of Al-Majsh Al-Ala village in Mawza district at 5:38 pm on 22 April 2023 local time in Yemen, according to the timestamp of the post using TweetedAt.
Screenshot from TweetedAt’s analysis of Muhammad Ali Qazeef’s tweet, the first tweet regarding the incident, is shown 17:38:16 as time of posting. Image taken in June 2023 by Yemeni Archive.\ \ Footage released throughout the day of the attack, 22 April 2023, from the location of the bombing shows cloudy weather in the middle of the day.
A screenshot from a video posted on Ejaz Network’s account on Twitter, the moment the victims were being treated in a field hospital, as it appears to be close to the location of the house. In the shot, the weather appears cloudy. Tweet published on 23 April 2023. Screenshot taken in June 2023 by Yemeni Archive.
Two photos published by journalist Ali Al-Sakani on Twitter on the day of the attack in two different shots, one of which shows one of the victims surrounded by the family, and another photo shows the house where the weather also appears to be overcast. The same photos were published on the date of the incident, 22 April 2023, by Yemen Window and Almontasaf.
Using this information regarding the weather conditions as a reference for the day, the historical weather records for Mawza show that 22 April 2023 was cloudy and windy, which also matches satellite imagery acquired by the Yemeni Archive from (PlanetScope Scene) of the same day showing 94% cloud cover over the area at 09:45 a.m. local time, the only cloudy day that week, confirming that 22 April was the day of the incident.
Screenshot from world weather online website. Historical weather data shows that 22 April the day of the accident, was a very cloudy day with possible thunderstorms, which is consistent with the weather in the scenes associated with the accident and satellite imagery data. Taken in June 2023 by the Yemeni Archive.
Image from PlanetScope Scene. Satellite imagery shows 94% cloud cover on 22 April 2023, covering Mawza district where the attack took place. Taken in June 2023 by the Yemeni Archive.
Based on the analysis of the timestamp of the first reporting and the analysis of the weather on the day of the bombing according to the visual content and its comparison with satellite imagery from the PlanetScope Scene site for the same day, and historical data at(World Weather Online,PlanetScope Scene), the possible time of the bombing of the house was between 09:45 and 17:38 local time on 22 April 2023.
The incident was located in the al-Majsh al-Ala village of the al-Awashiqah area belonging to the Mawza district of the Taiz governorate. By relying on navigation systems and mapping softwares which contain more accurate nomenclature, such as Open Street Maps, the Yemeni Archive was able to narrow down the search and pinpoint the geographical coordinates of the damaged house to the Awashiqah sector.
A screenshot from OpenStreetMap showing the results of the search for al-Awashiqa village in Mawza district, western Taiz. Taken by the Yemeni Archive in June 2023.
This area contained houses with much of the same qualities as the impacted house. The absence of a feature that distinguished the damaged house from the others in the neighborhood proved to make an accurate identification difficult, had it not been for a mountain range which appeared in a video by the Media Center of the National Resistance. This mountain range constituted the focal point of the research, albeit supported by a few other landmarks including: 1) green spaces in between the damaged house and the mountains, 2) neighboring structures, namely an ‘L-shaped’ building, and 3) auxiliary signs such as secondary roads. The combination of these markers compared against satellite imagery contributed to successfully ascertaining the impact site’s coordinates: 13.386378, 43.668547.
A screenshot from the Media Center of the National Resistance video revealing the contours of the mountain range to the left of the incident site.
A similar screenshot of the left view of the terrain from the Suhail TV Youtube video displays a matching mountain range contour to that found in a screenshot of Google Earth Pro at the site of the incident in “street view.” Screenshots taken in June 2023. Illustrations created by the Yemeni Archive.
Following the white lines, a clear correspondence is seen between the outlines of the background mountains to the left of the incident site and those found in the satellite image. To corroborate this finding, the same tactic was used to analyze the terrain from the right view.
A screenshot of the right view of the terrain from the Suhail TV Youtube video displays a matching mountain range contour to that found in a screenshot of Google Earth Pro at the site of the incident in “street view.” Screenshots taken in June 2023. Illustrations created by the Yemeni Archive.
To visualize these two angles together, the Yemeni Archive overlay semi-transparent versions of the Suhail TV video screenshots in front of a screenshot from PeakVisor — a 3D navigation application with an advanced mountain identification feature which enables high-precision terrain modeling. The result is a near seamless match in the shape (peaks & dips) of the incident’s landscape.
A screenshot from PeakVisor displaying the full mountain range overlooking the incident site with semi-transparents screenshots of the partial views of the mountain ranges to the left and to the right of the incident via the Suhail TV Video layered on top. Taken by the Yemeni Archive in June 2023.
In addition to the mountain range, surrounding objects and topography of the impact site helped to verify the location. Using satellite imagery, the Yemeni Archive situated several landmarks such as dirt pathways, vast green spaces, and nearby houses.
Comparison of the impact site. Top right: a screenshot from SuhailTV Youtube video. Top left and bottom: screenshots from the Media Center of the National Resistance video. Turquoise: damaged house. Dashed-line: dirt road, green. White outline in top right screenshot: farm full of trees. White outline in both bottom screenshots: L-shaped house. Red: adjoining room. Screenshots were taken in June 2023. Illustrations created by the Yemeni Archive.
Matching a satellite image from Google Earth Pro of the impact site, Turquoise: damaged house and nearby bushes. White: L-shaped house. Red: adjoining room. Dashed-line: dirt road. Screenshot was taken in June 2023. Illustrations created by the Yemeni Archive.
The house of the family that hosted the celebration was almost completely destroyed and is no longer habitable. Photos and videos posted on Twitter and YouTube show significant damage to one of the walls along with part of the ceiling. Fractures and cracks can be seen on the remaining walls of the house as a result of the attack. The video also documents a completely damaged plastic water tank near the house.
An image from Taiz News Network account on Twitter, showing in an external shot the damage to the house as a result of the attack. The upper part of the house shown where the door was located and another part below, demolished. published on 26 April 2023.
A screenshot from the Media Center of the National Resistance YouTube video showing the damage and cracks left by the attack on the house. taken in July 2023.
A screenshot from 2 December Agency Twitter video of the completely damaged white water tank next to the house. Taken in July 2023.
Potential munitions used
Small munition remnants appeared in a video published by the Media Center of the National Resistance. In the video, remnants are seen being carried by the owner of the damaged house in his hands, while other parts of the ammunition are observed in a photo published by Al-Hadath Al-Yemeni account on Twitter. The image contains what appears to be half of a broken disk, pieces of various fragments, and a thin piece of metal marked by small holes in two parallel lines on one end.
Screenshots from Media Center of the National Resistance YouTube channel video, showing the owner of the house holding small pieces of metal in his hands that appear to be the remnants of small fragments of the munition that hit the house. The video was published on 23 April 2023. Screenshots taken by Yemeni Archive in June 2023.
Image from Al-Hadath Al-Yamani tweet of the site of the incident, it is possible to see the presence of a half-circular broken disk, pieces of various fragments, and a thin piece of metal marked with small holes in two parallel lines at one end (marked by a white, dashed-oval), possibly belonging to the ammunition that hit the house. Tweet posted on April 22, 2023. Illustrations created by the Yemeni Archive.
The Joint Forces on the western coast accused the Ansar Allah Houthi forces of being responsible for bombing the house, given their control over the area where the house is located. The same accusations were leveled by local media, most of which are anti-Ansar Allah Houthi. No statements were made by Ansar Allah Houthi affiliated forces or from independent parties.
Visual characteristics observed in available open source content provide information that helps determine the likely direction of arrival of the projectile. This visual content, along with information about the military context, area of control for each party, and the maximum range of the projectile, can provide leads into identifying those forces potentially responsible for the attack.
In the video of the Media Center of the National Resistance, the door of the upper floor of the house appears lying on the ground, and shows a bow in the upper right side to the inside - in the position of the normal door before the bombing. It also has what appears to be a white mark that might be indicative of the direct impact and explosion of the projectile. From there, it appears that the potential ammunition might have taken a straight horizontal path towards the northwest side of the house, representing the direction of the projectile’s possible arrival.
The following two images highlight observations drawn from the impact of the projectile’s collision with the house’s door, which provide insights into the direction of the projectile’s arrival.
Screenshot from National Resistance Media Center’s Youtube video. The door of the upper floor of the house appears lying on the ground, and it has a bow in the upper right side to the inside “marked in a white, dashed-circle” in the normal position of the door before the bombing. Taken in July 2023. Illustrations created by Yemeni Archive.
Screenshot from National Resistance Media Center’s Youtube video. White, dashed-cirlce: It has what appears to be a white mark next to the inner frame of the door that might be indicative of the direct impact and explosion of the projectile. Taken in July 2023. Illustrations created by Yemeni Archive.
Below is a simplified blueprint of the house. The bird’s-eye view helps to situate the door (small rectangular object) and the projectile’s probable point of impact (red bull’s eye).
Illustration created by Yemeni Archive, showing the potential direction of the munition’s arrival and impact on the door, based on the traces of damage to the upper door of the house in the upper left. Illustration created in July 2023.
Damage analysis suggests that the course of the potential ammunition mirrors the path reflected in this visualization:
Screenshot from Google Earth Pro showing the location of the impact house. The straight white line represents the likely line of potential munition coming from the northwest of the house. Depending on the damage analysis on the upper door of the house, the line was drawn. Screenshot and illustrations created in July 2023 by Yemeni Archive.
The direction of the volatility of the rubble indicates one other possibility. The bombardment created a hole in the eastern corner of the house, while the spread of rubble appears to have taken a path opposite the penetration towards the northeast, marking another approaching area. However, it is unknown whether the rubble had been moved aside by civilians prior to the scene being documented and captured on camera. If so, the most likely angle of penetration remains from the northeast of the house. Conversely, if the rubble had not been touched, the direction of the potential munition remains somewhat inconclusive between the northwest and northeast of the house.
The following two images provide geographical information regarding the house and the remnants of the collision by determining the point due north.
Two screenshots from the National Resistance Media Center’s video. Top, red rectangle : rubble area. White rectangle: rubble free area. The arrow is northward in the map. Bottom, red arrows: The direction of rubble opposite to the direction of impact. The illustrations were created in July 2023 by the Yemeni Archive.
Assuming that the original distribution of the rubble has not been compromised, the alternative course of the potential ammunition is reflected in this visualization:
Screenshot from Google Earth Pro showing the location of the impact house. The white, dashed-line represents the likely line of potential munition coming from the north, with a slight deviation to the east. Depending on the damage analysis, the shape of the gap in the right corner of the house,and the direction of the rubble, the line was drawn. Screenshot and illustrations created in July 2023 by Yemeni Archive.
It required identifying the military locations of the two parties within the direction of the possible launch. Multi-step tracking to obtain accurate results. Liveuamap provides a preliminary map of the conflict in the region, which was augmented with information from the Maps and Wars channel on YouTube regarding the military situation in the Al-Barah front – Mawza, based on which the investigation team conducted monitoring for fortifications and earthen berms for both sides via satellite images from Google Earth.
A screenshot from Google Earth Pro of the nearest fortification where the Ansar Allah Houthi forces are stationed in the Mawza area, located approximately 2.9 km north of the house. White square: Information about the distance measurement between the house and the fortification, the white line is the telemetry tool on the map. Photo created in July 2023 by the Yemeni Archive.
Screenshot of Google Earth Pro to determine the front line space. The white, dashed-line determines the dimension between the nearest Ansar Allah Houthi forces fortification site and the fortification of the Joint Forces in the western coast. The white box shows the measuring tool on the map where the frontline interval is estimated to be about 1.56 km. The photo was created in July 2023 by the Yemeni Archive.
It is clear, through tracking and monitoring, that the nearest location where the Houthis are stationed is approximately 2.9 km north of the house, while the joint forces control 1.3 km from the line extending to the north.
Here, we can see how control over the territory surrounding the house is divided due to the military context at the time of the attack.
Screenshot of Google Earth Pro for control areas in distributor areas. Purple: The Joint Forces in the western coast, green: Ansar Allah Houthi forces, red: separating front. Turquoise pin: house location. The photo and illustrations were created in July 2023 by Yemeni Archive.
Official and local media, as well as media outlets loyal to the Joint Forces, the Arab Coalition, and local journalists, pointed to the Houthis’ responsibility for the attack, while the Houthis did not issue any comment regarding the bombing.
The possible arrival paths, drawn within a radius of 5 km, show that the Houthis control a wider part of the potential launch field compared to the joint forces, in addition to the Houthis’ positioning in the high areas opposite the house.
A screenshot from Google Earth Pro which displays a 5km radius (the average operational range of potential munitions) from the missile’s point of impact, suggesting the possible scope of the munition’s origin. The dropped pin indicates the site of the damaged house. The two turquoise lines represent the two working theories of the direction of the missile’s arrival: either from the Northwest or Northeast of the damaged house. The area above the green line is the region under the control of Ansar Allah Houthi forces while the area below the blue line is the region under the control of the Joint Forces in the western coast. Given these territories’ de-facto jurisdictions coupled with the potential area of the missile’s launch, it can be noted that the bulk of the overlapping zone falls under Ansar Allah Houthi control. The photo and illustrations were created in July 2023 by the Yemeni Archive.
However, due to the limited information available about the bombing and the absence of conclusive material evidence in the content related to the incident it is not possible to independently confirm the responsibility of the Ansar Allah Houthi forces for the attack.
News websites affiliated with the Joint Forces in the western coast reported that the attack resulted in 12 people killed or injured. 2 December Agency and West Coast published numbers indicating that 3 civilians were killed, including a woman and a 12-year-old girl. Sources also said a woman and 9 others, mostly from one family, were injured.
- Najwa Hassan Muqbel Bagash (12 years old).
- Muhammad Abd al-Basit al-Hubaishi.
- And his sister, Maryam Abd al-Basit al-Hubaishi.
- Abdelbaset Mohammed al-Hubaishi.
- Osama Abd al-Basit Muhammad al-Hubaishi.
- Abdul Ghaffar Abdullah Muhammad al-Hubaishi.
- Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar Abdullah al-Hubaishi.
- Think Abdul Hafez Muhammad al-Hubaishi.
- Shihab Saeed Mahyoub Ahmed Abdul Latif al-Hubaishi.
- Osama Saeed Mahyoub Ahmed Abdul Latif al-Hubaishi.
- Saeed Talib Ahmed Qami’o
- Ahmed Saeed Talib Ahmed Qami’o
Available open source information indicates that on the second day of Eid Al-Fitr, 22 April 2023, an alleged missile hit a civilian house in the Al-Majsh Al-Ala village of the Al-Awashiqah area located in the Mawza district of the western Taiz governorate. As a result of the attack, 3 people were killed, including a woman and a child, and 9 other members of the family were wounded. The attack also caused heavy damage to the house, making it no longer habitable for its residents.
Apparent Breaches of International Law
This incident involves violations of the rights of civilians and civilian objects to be protected from indiscriminate attacks under International Humanitarian Law (IHL). In the Yemeni context, the facts of this event give rise to the following issues, which govern the applicability and relevance of different international laws:
- Which legal instruments explicitly ban attacks on civilian objects
- The applicability of those laws to a non-international conflict (within borders)
Attack on a civilian object
The principle of distinction is a cornerstone of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and dictates that certain people and objects must be protected from attacks during armed conflict by reason of their civilian status. All parties to an armed conflict are responsible for distinguishing between military and civilian targets and refraining from targeting civilian people or objects. The Yemeni conflict is between State and non-state actors and therefore is classified as a Non-International Armed Conflict (NIAC). While the lines between civilian and military objectives may become blurred at times in the context of a NIAC, that uncertainty does not release all parties from their obligation to refrain from targeted clearly civilian objectives.
There are three main sources of IHL that apply to NIAC’s such as the conflict in Yemen: Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol II (1997), and the Customary Rules of International Humanitarian Law (ICRC). Both Common Article 3 and Additional Protocol II protect civilians and civilian communities but do not explicitly protect civilian objects, such as a home. However, the prohibition against targeting civilian objects has become a universally accepted customary rule enshrined in Rule 7 of the Customary Rules of Humanitarian Law, established by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Rule 7 states that all civilian objects must not be attacked unless they have been repurposed to achieve military objectives. This principle was also embodied in United Nations Resolutions as early as 1970 in General Assembly resolution 2675 and has also been included in recent resolutions, such as UNSC r2624 (2022) condemning directing attacks specifically against civilian objects in Yemen, and recent treaty law, namely in the Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (Article 3(7)). Additionally, in the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons case before the International Court of Justice, several states invoked the principle of distinction between civilian and military objects. In its opinion, the court stated that the principle of distinction was one of the “cardinal principles” of international humanitarian law in all conflicts.
In this case, the home targeted was not a lawful object of attack. It was a civilian object that had not been converted into a military target or repurposed to suit military objectives. The home was not in any way contributing to the action of any party to the conflict, therefore it could not be considered a permitted object of military targeting. Additionally, there were multiple civilian casualties and injuries associated with the attack, which is a breach of the protections provided to civilians not engaged in direct hostilities by Common Article 3, Additional Protocol Article 13(2), and Customary IHL.
This attack was in breach of deeply rooted foundational principles of the law of armed conflict. This violation may be prosecutable under International Criminal Law (ICL), including at the ICC under Rome Statutes Art. 8(2)(e)(i) which prohibits directing attacks against the civilian population, and Art. 8(2)(e)(xii) which prohibits the destruction of property of an adversary unless such destruction be “imperatively demanded by the necessities of the conflict.” In the analysis above, the Houthis, considered a “non-state” actor, were posited as the probable perpetrator. Although some instruments and avenues of redress under international law apply to state actors, the instruments implicated by the facts of this case apply with equal vigor to state as well as non-state actors. Although Yemen has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute, a state that has signed but not ratified a treaty is still obliged to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty, according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.