HOD10007 - The Vegetable Washing Strike

August 29, 2019

Incident ID: HOD10007
Location: Bayt Al Faqih, Hodeidah
Coordinates: 14.625390, 43.306878
Incident Grading: Likely
Date: 2018/10/24
Time (AST): PM, likely shortly before 1744 

KEY FINDINGS

- A vegetable washing facility near Bayt Al Faqih was affected by some kind of attack, likely an airstrike. The number of fatalities appears to have been 21, with at least one appearing to have been a child. 

- There is no indication that the targeted facility served an alternative purpose or that military personnel were present at the scene of the incident.

- Although many news reports stated this location was a “factory“, it appears to have been a communal area used to wash vegetables. 

DISCOVERY

Sources were identified by searching for specific keywords, including: “Bayt Al Faqih”, “Hodeidah”, “vegetable market”, “vegetable factory”, “vegetable washing”, “attack”, “airstrike” and “aggression”, a slang term for the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC). These keywords were searched for in both English and Arabic, on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The searches were initially time-limited in order to capture content posted immediately after the event, and then searches were conducted without time limitation in order to identify any further contextual information.

A full list of sources can be found at the bottom of this article.

WHERE?

The incident occurred in a location known as Bayt Al Masoudi in the Bayt Al Faqih district of the Hodeidah governorate. Bayt Al Faqih is roughly 70 kilometers south of Hodeidah in the western part of Yemen. At the time of writing there was no satellite imagery available on either Google Earth or TerraServer depicting this location on or after 24/10/2018. 

The location was identified using the various features visible in the videos made after the incident. The location is rural, with some scattered buildings visible in the background. There are two prominent antennas visible in the background, as well as a paved road. Large electrical poles are visible in the background.

These key features allowed us to narrow down the search to locations in close proximity of a paved road and electrical poles. By following the roads and electrical lines out of Bayt Al Faqih, we identified the location where this incident took place.

Top: still from a video depicting a ViP visit to the location of the strike. Note the two antenna. Bottom: satellite image taken on 2017/11/03 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)


View looking south east, as seen in footage by Al Masirah. Satellite imagery taken on 2017/11/03 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

Using the Al Masirah footage we can also locate where the majority of the casualties in this incident were caused. Multiple videos from the aftermath of this attack show casualties in and around piles of vegetables, both on the ground and in two large tubs of water, which are identified as okra in this Al Jazeera report. These piles of okra can also be seen in the Al Masirah footage. 

Still from Al Masirah footage showing the location of piles of okra marked in pink. Satellite imagery taken on 2017/11/03 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus). 

The water tubs seen in various videos from the scene are also clearly visible in satellite imagery of this location.

Top: water tank seen in Al Masirah footage, Bottom right: water tank seen in Al Jazeera footage, Bottom left: water tank marked in blue square seen in satellite imagery taken on 2017/11/03 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus). 

What was this location used for?

The location of the airstrike was described by various sources as “factory for vegetable packaging” and “outdoor vegetable marketplace”. The available footage suggests that the location is indeed a communal washing facility at which produce is washed and prepared for sale. Piles of okra can be seen in images and videos from the scene, and locals can be seen demonstrating how the okra was washed in the large stone troughs containing water. 

Piles of okra and plastic crates can be seen at this location in the immediate aftermath of the strike.
A man can be seen demonstrating how the okra is washed using the plastic crate during a ViP visit to the site.

It should be noted that there does appear to be a structure which may be a checkpoint near the road which runs through this location. This structure has existed since at least April 2017. A circular crater near the location of this structure may possibly be a crater, but this cannot be confirmed with satellite imagery alone. This structure is approximately 215 meters from the impact location of the airstrike and does not feature in any open source content.

A structure which may be a checkpoint can be seen near the location of the strike, marked by the yellow circle. A circular feature, which may possibly be a crater, can be seen in blue. Two dates of the same location have been used to show this checkpoint appears to be a permanent feature. Left: 2017/04/24. Right: 2017/11/03. (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)
Checkpoint structure in relation to crater and effect caused by strike in satellite imagery taken on 2017/11/03 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

WHEN?

Date

All sources agree the attack took place on 2018/10/24.

Time

Video purporting to show the immediate aftermath of the attack appears to have been shot during daylight, although the light level appears to be low. Casualties are still walking around the scene and an ambulance is loading casualties. 

Images from earlier footage showing walking wounded and an ambulance

Other videos, in which bodies are still at the scene, was filmed at twilight, and later content, showing bodies at a hospital, was clearly taken at night. 

Still from footage taken at twilight. Night the body in the red shirt in the pile of okra and the headlights of the vehicles on the road in the background. 
Still from footage filmed in hospital taken at night. 

Considering walking wounded and ambulances can still be seen in the earliest video, it appears that this incident must have taken place some time in the late afternoon before sunset. The sunset in Hodeidah on 2018/10/24 took place at 1744. 

Screenshot from Timebie showing the time of sunset in Hodeidah on this date.

WHAT DAMAGE WAS DONE?

Multiple media reports consistently state that the casualties were factory workers or farmers. Local medical sources indicate that at least two of the casualties were children. There does not appear to have been any obvious militant activity in the area and available footage shows no uniformed men. 


Video which appears to have been taken in the immediate aftermath of the attack shows a number of casualties scattered around the site in addition to a large amount of okra, tarp, dark-coloured plastic crates, white bags and beige bags. There are numerous individuals dressed in civilian clothing present at the immediate aftermath of the scene, none of which appear to be armed. 


Still of video showing the immediate aftermath of this airstrike. Note the piled okra.

A large number of casualties were certainly caused by this strike. Footage taken in the immediate aftermath show casualties scattered around the area. Other footage taken later in hospital shows multiple wounded men. As well as the wounded, the bodies of those killed also appear to have been collected at this hospital. An album of images at the hospital can be seen here.

Body bags lined up outside the hospital as seen in the Al Jazeera video. A gurney can be seen in the back right. The same scene can be seen in the Yemen Press Agency video at 03:35.

Reports also indicated that children were among those killed. Al Jazeera displayed a blurred image they claimed showed a child was among the victims. A casualty wearing what appears to be the same shawl can be seen in footage apparently taken in the immediate aftermath of the attack. The casualty does indeed appear to be young, although it is not possible to identify their precise age. 

Left: Al Jazeera footage allegedly showing child casualty. Right: a casualty wearing what appears to be the same shawl can be seen in footage of the immediate aftermath. 

There appear to have been three vehicles present at the scene of the incident when the incident occurred. A truck, which appears to be loaded with goods, is visible in many videos from this incident. A pile of bags can be observed next to this truck. It is not known if the white truck was being loaded or unloaded when this incident took place.

Still of video showing the white truck with bags, presumably of some kind of goods, next to it.

The second vehicle which can be observed is a white pick-up truck with orange and red markings and some kind of cage on the bed. Vegetables can be seen spilling from the rear of this vehicle in various videos. 

Stills from video showing the white pick-up truck with red and orange markings and vegetables spilling out in footage from the scene

Another vehicle which is visible in some content, a second white pick-up truck, may also have been at this location at the time of this event. Although it is possible this vehicle may have been driven by people responding to the incident, the rear left tire appears to be flat, indicating it may have been damaged in the blast from the detonation of the munition. 

The second white pick-up truck as seen in this footage. Note the back left wheel appears to be flat.

None of the vehicles seen in images or videos of this attack appear to have had weapons mounted or were obviously military in nature. 

Despite at least one report from a UAE-based publication claiming that Houthi military personnel were killed in Bayt Al Faqih around this time, no information could be found that indicated anyone at this location were Houthi military personnel.

CASUALTIES

Although reports of the number of  casualties varied, they were roughly consistent at around 20 fatalities, with the highest reported number being 21, and the lowest being 16.

Reuters - at least 16 killed

Thompson-Reuters - at least 16 killed

The New Arab - 19 killed, including two children

Sabaa News - 21 killed, 10 injured

Motabaat - 21 killed

Al Jazeera - 21 killed, including two children

WHAT MUNITION WAS USED?

As no satellite imagery is available for the period after the attack occurred, the only available images are those included in the videos taken at the scene of the incident.

A section in the Al Masirah report shows the crater likely caused by the detonation of the munition. During this segment the narrator announces in Arabic that the munition landed 7 or 8 meters away from the workers. Local witnesses claim that there were “fighter jets above” before the incident occurred. A crater, likely the same one, can also be seen in footage of a ViP visit to this area.


Still from Al Masirah report showing crater
Top: still from footage of ViP trip to this location, clearly showing crater. Bottom: satellite image from 2017/11/03 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

However, no munition fragments appear to have been recovered from this location, and as such the type of munition used cannot be established with any level of confidence.

WAS IT AN AIRSTRIKE?

Eyewitness accounts stating that planes were in this location at the time of the incident, and were responsible for this event makes it likely that this was indeed an airstrike. 

STATEMENTS BY PARTIES TO CONFLICT

The SLC

The Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) investigated this incident and found [via Google Translate]:

Coalition Forces conducted an aerial mission on the legitimate military target in Hodeidah province at 5:32 pm on Wednesday, 24 October 2018, using a guided bomb that hit the target. The joint team has found through the study of satellite images of the prosecution area as follows: 

1. The location of the military target (gatherings of armed Houthi militia) is 12 km from the coordinates of the claim. 

2. After examining the satellite images on 19/11/2018, ie 25 days after the date of the claim, it became clear to the joint team that there were no traces of aerial bombardment on the vegetable market in question. 

In the light of this; the joint team proved that the coalition forces did not target (vegetable market)

It should be noted that the time of the strike that JIAT investigated is consistent with the time window we established: shortly before sunset at 1744. It should also be noted that a crater is clearly visible in open source videos taken within two days of the strike. It therefore appears that the JIAT statement is not fully consistent with open source information and as such should be investigated further.  

The Houthis

We could not identify any verifiable statement from the Houthis about this incident.

CONCLUSION

In the late afternoon of 2018/10/24 a munition detonated next to a group of people who appear to have been farmers washing okra. These people do not appear to have been military personnel, and it seems at least one was possibly a child. There does not appear to have been any obvious military target at this location. A statement by JIAT does not appear to match information from open sources. 

SOURCES


Videos

Yemen Press Agency video
ViP tour video
AJ video
Al Jazeera report
Al Masirah video: https://almasirah.net/gallery/preview.php?file_id=21261


Media Reports

24.ae report 
Al Mayadeen report
Motabaat report with images
The New Arab report 1
The New Arab report 2
Reuters report
Sabaa News report


Social Media reports

2018/10/24 2030 AST - Tweet mentioning attack
2018/10/24 2257 AST - Images of fatalities in hospital
2018/10/24 2257 AST - Images of casualties in hospital
2018/10/24 2309 AST - Image of fatalities next to ambulance
2018/10/25 1056 AST - Image of fatality
2018/10/25 1733 AST - Images of casualties
2018/10/25 2043 AST - UGC video (watermarked as Al Masirah) showing aftermath of strike
2018/10/25 2215 AST - Images of casualties at location
2018/10/25 2303 AST - Images of casualties