Targeting Al Raqas residential area in Sana’a

Targeting Al Raqas residential area in Sana’a

Mon Jul 08 2019
This investigation was done as a collaboration between Yemeni Archive and Bellingcat

  • Location: Raqas district in Sana’a, Yemen
  • Claimed targets: Residential area
  • Date: 16 May 2019
  • Time: Between ~ 08:16 am - 08:22 am local time (according to video camera)
  • Reported killed: 6 killed including 4 children
  • Reported injured: 33 civilians
  • Munitions identified: not available
  • Potentially responsible: Arab coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia

What Happened and When?

On May 16th 2019, photos, videos, and statements were published online on social media platforms about an airstrike by the Arab Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia that targeted a residential area called Al Raqas district in Sana’a, Yemen.

Reports online claimed that 6 people, 4 of which were children, died as a result of this attack. Additionally, reports claimed 33 civilians, 16 of which were children, were injured from the attack.

This open source investigation will verify and assess the social media materials published about this incident in order to better understand the details surrounding it.

The First Moment of the Attack

Video 1 was posted on the YouTube account of Mohamaad Alansi and shows the first moment of the attack.

via GIPHY

The video shows the munition being dropped at 0:06 as shown below:

The CCTV video includes a timestamp indicating that the date and time of the attack was on (16-05-2019) at (08:16:36).

It also shows a sign which says “صالة السمو الملكي.” This is the name of a business that is identified and located on Google maps as shown below:

Using the above location as reference, Video 1 can be geolocated as shown below:

We can also see match the terrain in the video to the location using Google Earth Pro as shown below:

Moreover, the shadow of the building in the video can be measured using Shadow Calculator which further corroborates that the time of the attack was around 08:16 Sana’a local time.

Video 2, which was also captured through CCTV camera, was posted on the Facebook user page of Abduljleel. It additionally shows the first moment of the attack as well as the following date and timestamps of 16-05-2019 at 08:22:21.

Video 3 was posted on the Facebook user page of Faisal Al Jabri and shows the first moments of the attack. The sound of an aircraft can be heard in the video at 0:10.

The person in the video mentions that the aircraft is flying over the attacked location. He also says that the attack is ½ KM away from his location.

The mosque that appears in the video can be geolocated using Google Earth Pro. The location of the mosque which called Bilal can be seen here.

The shadow of the mosque’s dome indicates the time of the attack shown in the video (08:17 Sana’a local time), which is very close to the time shown on the CCTV camera capture of Video 1.

Video 4 was posted on the YouTube channel UNITED YEMEN and shows the first moments of the attack. The sound of an aircraft can be heard at 0:07 in the video. Below is the geolocation of the video using Google Earth Pro.

The exact upload date of the video (16-05-2019) can be checked using a YouTube DataViewer tool.

The video was uploaded at 09:51 am Sana’a local time. The UTC time shown in the data viewer is converted to Sana’a local time.

After the Attack

External damage to the building and school

Video 5 published by Balqees TV on their official YouTube channel shows the impact site after the attack as well as the rescue operation. Ambulance cars from the Kuwait University Hospital are seen in the video.

The video also shows the entrance of Al Manar hospital, which received patients injured from the blast.

Video 6 published by Al Maseera official YouTube channel shows the external damage to the bombed building as well as the damage to (Maaz Bin Jabal) school that is located in front of the bombed building.

The video also shows the rescue operation with individuals digging through the rubble to find the victims of the airstrike.

One of the people interviewed in the video report said: “We got the father and the son from under the rubble. The small daughter died as something fell on her and three other children died in the second room. We are still looking for a 17 year old girl and another girl. One man was renting a room in the building whose his legs were cut. He died between my arms. They are all from the same family.” The video shows one of the killed children found under the rubble and carried to the ambulance.

Maaz bin Jabal school published two posts on their official facebook page about the airstrike.

The first post includes photos of the damage inside the school as a result of the airstrike.

It also includes a photo of the protests organized by the education team of the Maen administration.

The second post includes photos of the damage to the school as a result of the airstrike. The post also mentions that the school is preparing to be a test center for students starting from 15/06/2019.

The Impact Site Itself and Neighboring Buildings

Alongside the civilian casualties, the residential area itself as well as its surrounding buildings suffered severe damage from the airstrike. Alongside the Facebook page of (Maaz Bin Jabal school publishing photos showing the extensive damage inside the school from the airstrike, Video 11 published by RT and Video 12 published by France 24 shows the impact of the airstrike on the al-Raqas residential area.

Video 7 published by the Facebook Page Sanaa Rohi, alongside Video 9, additionally shows more closely the direct impact site as civilians attempt to search for victims stuck under the rubble. Video 7, published by the same page of Sanaa Rohi, shows the impact site from a forward outside angle.

Video 8 published by the YouTube channel Walid Al-Asbahhi shows the impact site from behind showing damage similarly seen in Video 11.

This angles and images from Videos 8 and 11 additionally match Video 10 which shows a similar angle of the rubble and impact site.

The Houthi group AnsarAllah’s media outlet al-Maseera additionally published a video showing the damage of the airstrike alongside interviews with witnesses.

Where it Happened

Because of the significant landmarks surrounding the residential area, this airstrike was geolocated to a small building in the district of al-Raqas in western Sana’a. The building stands across from the Maaz Bin Jabal school which can be seen in the background of the footage showing the aftermath of the attack. The attack site also neighbors the district’s public market and other residential buildings.

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Moreover, an alley featured in a number of videos as an evacuation point for patients of the attack was located east of the attacked building on a neighboring street.

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Inside the alleway. (Source)

Before and After the Attack

Below is a satellite image taken by Google Earth Pro which shows the impact site before and after the airstrike on May 16 2019.

Munitions

Few photos about the remnants of munitions were posted on Facebook. Abdul Razaq Al Jamal Facebook page published photos remnants of the munition in the attack. Abdulaah Yerem also published a photo showing the remnants of the munition.

Casualties and injured

Yemen’s Ministry of Health published a list of those killed and injured as a result of the attack. This report lists around 55 individuals with identified injuries as well as 6 deaths. This matches reports, such as that by RT, which detail a family with four children as having died as a result of the airstrike.

Statements/Narrative

Given the controversies regarding this attack on civilians, two predominant narratives held by Ansarallah and the Saudi coalition dominate discussions regarding this event. Firstly, the Saudi coalition concentrates discussions regarding this airstrike, and the other airstrikes occurring in the capital on May 16th, upon an attack ARAMCO oil processing stations (Aramco 8 and 9) located in Saudi Arabia by drone breaking their pipelines as reported by Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya News.

A report by Al-Jazeera details the damage done by the drone strikes on the oil stations and emphasizes a direct and accurate targeting of the Aramco 8 and 9 pipelines by the Houthis. The Yemeni Archive team was able to verify the damage of Aramco 8 through geolocation using DigitalGlobe satellite imagery taken on 19-05-2019 and finding the damage as shown below:

ARAMCO 8 damage (Sattelite image from Digital Globe)

Below are two frames from a video published by YamanWrath on its official Twitter account showing smoke and fire as a result of the drone attack that targeted Aramco 8.

(Source)

The anti-Hadi pro-Houthi Republic of Yemen Armed Forces broadcasted a statement detailing the attack and emphasizing their attempts to economically disable the enemy country of Saudi Arabia. Naming the drone strike which disabled the pipelines as an act of direct aggression, and a violation of international law, the Saudi coalition justified the airstrikes throughout the city claiming their aim as “neutralizing the ability of the Houthi militia to carry out acts of aggression.”

Differing from the Saudi narrative, Ansarallah emphasized the innocence of victims of the May 16th attack in both a statement as well as a video report. In their statement regarding the attack, Ansarallah describes the injuries from the airstrike as including the head of the Yemeni Media Union, in addition to the death of his son. The group claims the attack was an attempt to silence the voices of the Yemeni people and reaffirms the commitment of Yemeni media to continue reporting on the suffering of their people.

Moreover, the medical aid organization MSF published a statement on Twitter noting the influx of patients in their hospitals (48 injured and 4 dead) as a result of airstrikes on the 16th. RT and France 24 additionally detail the airstrikes led by the Saudi coalition as in response to Houthi attacks on Saudi oil pipelines.

Conclusion

Given the media verified in this report, the Yemeni Archive can conclude that an airstrike on a residential building in al-Raqas, Sana’a did occur on May 16 2019. The attack most likely occurred at around 08:16 Sana’a local time and killed 6 civilians, 4 of them children, as well as injured at least 33 civilians. The attack severely damaged the targeted building as well as a neighboring school and nearby residential buildings. It led to a propagation of differing narratives regarding the attack. This attack occurred shortly after Houthi forces broke, by drone strike, 2 ARAMCO oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia. Shortly after this Houthi attack, the Kingdom claimed airstrikes in Sana’a were necessary to neutralize Houthi aggression. Ansarallah claims the attacks led by the Saudi’s on Sana’a was an attack on Yemeni freedoms and an attempt to silence the Yemeni people. Nevertheless despite the lack of open sources which fully verify the weapons used in this attack in al-Raqas, it is likely, given statements by Saudi Arabia about the referral of the result of one of the operations on the same day to a joint incident assessment team to consider the possibility of civilian casualties, that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the attack..