Incident ID: HOD10003
Location: Al Khokha, Hodeidah, (additional spellings: Khawkhah, Al Hudaydah)
Coordinates: 13.815485, 43.248501
Incident Grading: Likely
Time (AST): Shortly before sunset (sunset at ~1800 Arabian Standard Time)
- On 2017/03/10 just before sunset what likely an airstrike hit a market to the north of Al Khokha.
- Open Sources reported the number of casualties as being up to 32 fatalities. The most commonly reported number of fatalities was 22.
- Reports indicate that a nearby military facility may have been hit first, followed by the market some time later.
The following materials were discovered using search engines and search tools within various social media sites. The search terms included variations of the name of the alleged town of the strike, Al Khokha. These variations were found using the website Geonames, which lists different variations of names. By using advanced searches we could search within specific time frames to narrow down these results. We included variations of the terms “strike”, “bomb”, “attack” in different languages to find material relevant to the alleged attack itself. It should be noted that Al Khokha translates to “nectarine” in many of the social media posts. A full list of sources can be found below this report.
Multiple sources described the location as being market near a roundabout. We checked roundabouts in the city of Khokha and identified a potential location. This location was then confirmed using images and videos associated with this strike. This incident can be geolocated to 13.815485, 43.248501, primarily using a video posted by a YouTube channel named Alahvaz Media on 2017/03/12.
Despite the LCRD image above clearly having been edited to add a jet in the top left of the image, likely for dramatic effect, we can identify that both of these images were taken in the same location. The configuration of a burnt car, a wire frame and a motorcycle are identical, while debris such as a green sandel, marked in red, and a piece of cloth with a white object, marked in yellow, match exactly. This identical configuration of details strongly indicates the LCRD image and the footage in the Alahvaz Media video were taken in the same place at roughly the same time.
Since we can geolocate the LCRD image exactly, and we know that the LCRD image and the Alahvaz Media video were filmed in the same place, we can be very confident that the Alahvaz Media video does indeed depict the area of 13.815485, 43.248501.
What was the location being used for?
This location does appear to have been a small market. As well as multiple claims on social and traditional media that this location was a market, the images and videos associated with this incident appear to show stalls and goods scattered by the explosion. In addition, one of the buildings across the road from the incident location is marked as a hotel on Google Maps.
In the video published by Alahvaz Media on 12 March 2017, one of the interviewees provides the name of a restaurant that was close to the market: the “Kheir Restaurant” or “Good Restaurant” if translated directly. The report from al Masryalyoum also notes that one of the airstrikes allegedly hit a popular restaurant in the market but does not name the market.
Examination of an area within a 1 kilometer radius of the roundabout using satellite imagery did not reveal any obvious checkpoints on the roads themselves, however it should be noted that it is possible that satellite imagery is too low-quality to positively identify a small checkpoint. A large military base referred to as “Abu Musa camp” (معسكر أبو موسى) is located approximately one kilometer to the east of the strike location. As seen below, initial reports claimed this base had been attacked, but no images or videos of this incident appear to depict the camp.
No weapons could be identified in any images or media associated with this attack.
All sources agree that this strike took place on 2017/03/10.
The Alahvaz Media video included footage which appears to have been taken a short time after the strike, as material was still on fire. The light levels within the video indicate the strike took place at, or just before, dusk. This is supported by other media reports from Tihamah News, and a verbal description in the Alahvaz Media video. Examples of this visual information are below.
According to timeanddate.com the sunset in Yemen on 2017/03/10 was at 18:09 AST.
Initial reports of a strike in this vicinity were posted to social media at around 1700 AST. The earliest such report we found was a Facebook post made by the user @100almhklafii at 1638 stating that Abu Musa camp was being attacked. As we have previous documented, Abu Musa camp is approximately one kilometer to the east of the roundabout.
The earliest post we found explicitly reporting that a market had been hit was made at 1754 AST, shortly before sunset.
The timing of the reports of a strike on Abu Musa camp, followed by reports that a market had been hit, may support the narrative reported by DW that there were two separate incidents in this strike: one at the camp, and one at the market. However, it is also possible that the initial reports that Abu Musa camp was hit were merely using the camp as a known landmark. Without further information it is not possible to be sure.
From the reports, photos and videos we discovered, including satellite imagery, it appears that the reported strike detonated in an area adjacent to buildings at the roundabout. From the focus of the video footage available it appears the majority of the damage and fatalities occurred on the east side of the building at 13.815407, 43.248330.
According to a news report from Deutsche Welle (DW), quoting a military source in Aden, “the Arab coalition fighters targeted a Houthi checkpoint in the province of Hodeidah to the northwest.” People then allegedly fled from this checkpoint to a khat market, which was then also hit by an airstrike. The military source in the DW article accused the Houthis, who control Khokha, of using civilians as "human shields". We could not identify the location of the reported initial attack.
No remnants of any munitions were featured in any open source images of videos.
Were first responders targeted?
With regard as to whether first responders were targeted during this incident, Ansallaroh reported that a security source said: “the aviation aggression intensified after the bombing of the market to prevent paramedics to save the wounded, which increased the number of martyrs.”. Almrasel reported that, “Coalition aircraft repeated flights over the site of the raids, causing delays in rescue operations, where the aircraft had already bombed paramedics in more than one criminal event.” However, aside from these statements, no direct open source information can be found indicating that first responders were targeted.
Reaction to the incident
The strike attracted widespread local outcry from the community and Hodeidah officials. According to a Tihamah News report, three prominent Hodeidah governorate officials visited the site of the attack the day after the strike, including Mohammed Ayyash Qahi (first deputy), Abdulrahman al-Kami (deputy governor), and Mohammad Sulaiman Halisi (head of services committee). According to a video uploaded to YouTube by Ghadan Mohammed, students at the University of Hodeidah held a protest vigil on 2017/03/12, and asked the United Nations to open an investigation into the attack.
The casualty count for this strike vary. A list of different claims and their sources are below:
Minimum reported fatalities: 16. Maximum reported fatalities: 32. Most commonly reported number of fatalities: 22.
The Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) investigated this incident and stated that no strikes took place within 10 km of this location. If this incident was indeed as a result of an airstrike, which we believe to be likely, then this statement appears to be inconsistent with the available information.
We could not identify any official statements regarding this case from the Houthis.
Although the open source information is relatively limited for incident, we can confidently establish the rough time, as well as the exact date and location of this incident. The open source images and videos depict many casualties, none of whom are wearing military uniform, and none of whom appear to have any kind of weaponry. Although there were reports of Houthi’s operating in the area, no obvious military structures or vehicles could be identified at the point of impact, although a large military camp does exist approximately one kilometer away.
Yemen Events List
The Yemen Events List is a publicly available events log to keep track of the latest coalition airstrikes on civilians or civilian infrastructure in Yemen, plus any other significant reports or events that are related. It is updated daily by a wide group of editors from across several countries. For events from November 2016 - April 2017, see this file.
Social media reports
Contextual - previous attacks
The most informative video was published by Alahvaz Media on 12 March 2017 and showed the aftermath of strike both immediately after and in the following days. The video includes voiceover and testimonies which have not been translated word-for-word. Although there is not yet a full-transcript translation, the narrator states that:
General points from interviewees:
We used a List of Popular Markets in Yemen to help identify the location.