SAN10005 - The Al Kubra Funeral Hall Strike

August 28, 2019

Incident ID: SAN10005
Location: Al-Kubra Hall, Sana’a
Coordinates: 15.2895222, 44.2006722
Incident Grading: Confirmed
Date: 2016/10/08
Time: 15:30 AST


- At least two munitions,dropped minutes apart — around 15:20 - 15:30 local time — struck Al-Kubra Hall in Sana’a. At the time, a funeral was being held for Ali al-Rawishan, a well known public figure, identified as the father of Houthi-Saleh Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan. 

- Estimates of the number inside the hall at the time of the attack range as high as 1,500 men and boys. Casualty estimates vary, but a subsequent report compiled by UN-appointed experts put the death toll at 137 fatalities, with nearly 700 injured.

- It is possible to confirm a significant number of details relating to the attack using open sources, which proliferated after such a high profile bombing in the center of Yemen’s capital city. Unlike many other deadly attacks in Yemen, open source video footage appears to capture at least one of the strikes from several different angles — including what appears to be some kind of munition as it fell.

- There is some disagreement among sources as to whether two or more air-dropped munitions targeted the hall. Based on available information, the most likely scenario appears to be that two munitions were used, although some sources claim the first possibly included more than one weapon dropped in quick succession. The remnants of at least one US-manufactured guided missile were found at the scene. At this time, it is unknown which of these individual strikes these fragments are tied to.

- Survivor accounts establish that the second munitions exploded when rescuers were attempting to evacuate the injured, and when survivors where working to find or pull out their own family members.

- After an initial denial, the Coalition admitted responsibility for the attack, but blamed faulty intelligence provided by Yemeni partners. Human Rights groups and a UN Panel of Experts, however, noted that the Coalition regardless should have been aware of the massive number of civilians who would be at the site, many of whom would be killed in a single strike — let alone multiple bombings. The Panel of Experts concluded that the second strike, violated international law.


Searches were conducted in English and Arabic for “airstrike,” “hall, “funeral”, “Sanaa”, “Yemen” etc. during the time period around the strike. Below is a list of sources and materials found during the discovery process. Much of what is found below may contain copies of identical or similar footage. Though it is clear that reports emerged online within minutes of the attack, in many cases it is difficult to determine the original source of content. A full list of sources can be found below this report.


At least two strikes hit Al-Kubra Hall, located in southwest Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen. Satellite imagery taken a week before the attack show the hall — located at 15.2895222, 44.2006722 — intact. The next image available on Google Earth Pro, dated 2016/11/03, shows the hall in near complete ruin (a state in which it remains as at the time of writing).

Satellite imagery taken on 2016/10/03 (courtesy of Google/Digital Globe)

Satellite imagery taken on 2016/11/03 (courtesy of Google/Digital Globe)  

One of the most widely shared videos of the strike in its aftermath was that posted by the Tribune of Yemen, which shows the hall already on fire and emitting clouds of smoke — apparently from an initial strike — when a further explosion hurls debris hundreds of feet into the air. This video along with other information —  allows the attack to be easily located at the site identified above. 

Still from the Tribune of Yemen video

At the beginning of the clip, several buildings seen in satellite imagery are immediately apparent, as is the elevated area to the left of the impact site. The following satellite photograph identifies several of these structures:

Satellite image taken on 2016/10/03 (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)

A wider view shows the adjacent elevated area to the northeast, where the shadow of smoke falls in the video.

Top: Still from Tribune of Yemen video, with the hall marked in blue. Bottom: satellite image the ridge, marked in red, and the approximate shadow of the smoke, marked in orange (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies) 2016/11/03.

An analysis of shadows conducted on shows that at 15:30 AST the sun was shining from the southwest, and shadows would have been cast towards the northwest. This matches where shadows from smoke appear in the Tribune of Yemen video

Screenshot from

Footage captured from north and east of the hall offer a different perspective. This shot taken from the 0:19 mark in the Al Masirah video shows the hall on fire. The camera appears to be situated at or near the number 50 road that runs to the north of the hall.

Still from the Al Masirah video

Footage in the BBC documentary is taken in the immediate aftermath from a similar angle, but closer to “Al Teyaal” Street, which runs roughly to the east of the hall. 

Still from the BBC documentary

The satellite image below shows the approximate view points of both the BBC documentary and the first Al Masirah video. 

Satellite image showing view points of BBC and Al Masirah videos

The audio and cloud caused by the second strike also appears to be captured in the second Al Masirah video, The camera, which initially looks to be facing east down road 50, quickly pans to the site of an explosion. Several features seen in satellite imagery allow for locating the camera.

Top: Panoramic stitched from stills from the second Al Masirah video, Bottom: satellite image from 2016/11/03 (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)

At the 9 second mark in the second Al Masirah video, a cloud of black smoke appears to already be present prior to the explosion. As the camera pans to show the cloud from the explosion this dark smoke is evidently higher and more diffused than the clearly defined, lighter cloud caused by the explosion, indicating that this location was already ablaze by the time this explosion took place.

Still from the second Al Masirah video. Note the black smoke behind and above the lighter cloud.
Viewpoint of the second Al Masirah video in relation to the funeral hall, bottom right. Satellite imagery from 2016/03/11. (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)

The munition used in the second strike appears to be filmed in midair at around the 3:00 in the second Al Masirah video. Note that highlighting has already been applied by whoever edited this video, likely Al Masirah. This object appears to have been caught in six frames in the footage. 
Footage from this video taken a few seconds provide a vantage point that allows for geolocation.

Footage from this video taken a few seconds provide a vantage point that allows for geolocation.

Top: still from second Al Masirah video. Bottom: satellite imagery from 2016/11/03



All sources reviewed by us reported that this strike took place on October 8, 2016. This has been acknowledged by all parties to the conflict as well, including the Coalition. 

In an initial report, the New York Times cited a local health official who described “two nearly simultaneous strikes” that hit the hall, “followed by a third about a minute later.” Another witness interview by the NYT “reported four strikes spread over a slightly longer period of time.” Some contemporaneous reports on social media also referred to 4 total bombings. Other social media posts on 08 October referenced additional strikes elsewhere in the city. 


Mwatana reported that the attack occurred “around 3.30PM,” and relayed that “multiple survivors of the airstrike reported that three bombs struck the funeral gathering approximately five minutes apart.”

According to the BBC’s “The Funeral Strike,” the first attack took place at 15:20 AST and a second munition hit the hall 6-7 minutes later. 

Human Rights Watch reported witness accounts that “at about 3.30 p.m., at least two air-dropped munitions penetrated the roof of the hall and detonated a few minutes apart.” 

In a public report, the UN Panel of Experts for Yemen stated that “at around 3.20 p.m., two air-dropped bombs detonated on, or in, the Salah al-Kubra community hall.” The Panel reported that the second strike “occurred three to eight minutes after the first.” In a private letter to the Security Council obtained by a Yemen Project researcher they stated: “at approximately 15.20 and 15.30 hours (local time) explosive ordinances detonated on, or in,” the hall.

Reports on social media can be found very shortly after 15:30 AST , and by 15:45 AST, news accounts were posting about this event, which is consistent with the times reported by the organisations above.

Twitter post reporting attack. Note that the time of the Tweet is shown in BST, not AST

In the hours after the attack social media posts abound. At 16:22 AST, the account @SultanetZman tweeted a picture of the hall engorged in flames. It’s unclear what the original source of the image was, but the account noted that the hall “was filled with hundreds of mourners an hour ago.” This photograph appears to have been taken from the opposite side of Al Teyaal Street.


At the time of the bombing, all of Sana’a was under the control of the Houthis and their allies — who at the time included forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh himself told the BBC in an interview that he had been driving in the vicinity of the hall, but never attended the funeral.

Mwatana, among other sources, notes that “Houthi commanders and other military personnel” were in attendance. Considering that the funeral was for the father of Houthi-appointed Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan, it is unsurprising that high level civilian or military officials attended the event. Armed men can be seen in the hall both before the attack in footage from the BBC documentary, and in multiple images and videos after the attack. The presence of armed guards is consistent with the status of some of the attendees.

The UN Panel of Experts noted:

“Jalal Al-a’s [Houthi-Saleh interior minister Jalal Al Rowayshan’s, son of Ali Al Rowayshan, for whom the funeral was held] ministerial level position in the ministry of the interior under control of the Houthi-Saleh alliance, together with the Al Rowayshan family’s prominent role in the Upper Khawlan tribe, meant that a high number of high ranking political, military, and tribal guests were expected to attend the funeral. Although rumours of Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son, Khaled Ali Abdullah Saleh, attending the funeral turned out to be untrue, many current and former senior military officers of the Houthi and Saleh forces did attend the service. High profile public funerals, such as the one convened for Ali Al Rowayshan, are one of the few events in Yemen at which so many key figures in the Houthi-Saleh alliance would gather in a single place. Had the attack killed or seriously injured more of the individuals identified by the Panel then the Houthi-Saleh alliance would have been dealt a devastating political and military blow.”

Given the sources described above, it appears that there were likely high level officials, including from the military, in attendance at this funeral. 


Images taken while rubble was still smoking showed the building in ruin. While the carcass of the structure remained intact in some places, the interior seems to have been destroyed. 

At least two munitions appear to have broken through or exploded into an underground area — identified by ITV journalists as a car park — below the hall’s main floor, where attendees had gathered. That both munition penetrated the hall and its floor before detonating indicates that this effect was likely deliberate.

Still from the ITV video

The BBC identified two impact sites from above, on the main floor of the hall. It seems likely that these are the same holes as viewed from below in the ITV video.

Still from the BBC documentary

Still from the BBC documentary

Two distinct black spots can also be in satellite imagery of this location, which appear to match the penetration holes depicted in the BBC documentary.

Top: composite panorama of BBC documentary footage inside hall. The West, South and East aspects are indicated by the letters. Bottom: Satellite imagery from 2018/11/23, also with aspects of the building noted. The date of this satellite image was chosen as it most clearly shows the two black dots, although they are visible in satellite imagery immediately after the attack. (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)

These holes also appear in drone footage of the site seen in the BBC documentary.

Still from the BBC documentary

The UN Panel of Experts likewise identified two holes:

From the UN Panel of Experts report

Based on open source information, it is unclear exactly in which order each hole was created.

Footage taken in the aftermath of the attack showed the hall on fire, with black smoke billowing out, indicating a fire was caused by the explosions.

Still from second Al Masirah video
Still from the BBC documentary

Footage taken inside the hall showed a scene of carnage. As viewed in the al Masirah video, bodies lay scattered amid the rubble. Graphic photos posted to social media show that many of the victims have been extensively burned. Others have lost limbs.

Still from Al Masirah video

Still from Al Masirah video


Footage taken shortly before the attacks indicate that at the very least, several hundred people were in the hall. The surrounding location was also identified by the UN Panel of Experts as a residential area.

Top: composite panorama of footage from BBC documentary allegedly showing the interior of the hall that day.

According to the BBC’s “The Funeral Bombing,” the event had been “advertised widely [including on social media and national television], in keeping with Yemeni tradition, thousands of people, most of them civilians were on their way to attend.” At the time of the strike, “hundreds” of civilians were already present when the first bomb hit the hall. A second bomb detonated “just as the wounded were being evacuated, and medical teams and rescuers were entering the site.”

In a private correspondence with the UN Security Council obtained by a Yemen Project researcher, the UN panel of experts for Yemen noted that “the timing of the attack also coincided with a time when the funeral was expected to receive the highest number of mourners.

The Tribune of Yemen clip, while shot from a distance, shows survivors emerging from the hall just as another explosion rocks the funeral. 

Still from the Tribune of Yemen video

Human Rights Watch spoke with several survivors. One, Abed al-Baradeh, was in attendance with “his father, nephew, and four brothers inside the hall waiting to offer his condolences to the deceased’s family when an explosion threw him off his feet.” Al-Baradah said:

“I couldn’t see anyone… There was a lot of dust and smoke and screaming. We started running away as many others did. The back gate was closed but we broke it. We were 20 meters away from the great hall when suddenly another strike happened. I heard the sound of a plane.”

The 31-year-old doctor said that:

 “he heard two more munitions detonate in the hall minutes apart before fleeing the area.

Mwatana spoke with 25-year-old Esam Al-Rawishan, who said he had been in the hall for only five minutes when the first attack occurred.

“When the bomb hit, thick black dust was everywhere and I could not see anything… I could not breathe because of the dust. Shrapnel went into the right side of my back, and my face and right hand were burned. The second bomb struck, and because of the horror of the situation, I had no idea what was going on around me. I saw some people who were still alive jumping out of the second story windows. I was too afraid to jump, and when I saw an electric pole, I slid down it to get to the first floor.”

Yusuf Hadi, a 20 year old funeral guest said that the first strike caused the building to collapse on attendees. 

Another survivor who lost his leg in the attack said people “were burned beyond recognition… there were also many children. There were three children whose bodies were completely torn apart and strewn all over the place.”

A firefighter named Khalid Al-Raidi responded to the attack, telling Mwatana

“When we got there, we saw an inhuman situation,” he said. “The ground was littered. We have been gathering bodies and body parts from 4pm on the day of the incident until today [11am on October 10, 2016]. I believe there were more than 150 people killed here. I have gotten very depressed because of this.”

As Mwatana noted:

Although Houthi commanders and other military personnel were attending the funeral, the Coalition had reason to know that hundreds of civilians would also be present and likely killed or wounded in an attack: the date and place of the funeral were announced on a Facebook page and publicly available before the funeral, and it was foreseeable that the funeral—in such a large gathering hall and for a well-known person—would be well-attended.”


It cannot be established using only open sources that responders were deliberately targeted, however, since all accounts and sources indicated that two bombs were dropped several minutes apart, it appears certain that people responding to the initial strike were affected when the second munition detonated. Indeed the BBC documentary contains an interview with a member of the Red Crescent who stated that he waited close to the hall for a second strike before entering, as this practice was so common. 


  • Initial reports from local health officials put the death toll at “over 140 people” and the number injured at “over 525,” according to a statement released on 08 October, 2016 by the UN. 
  • On 08 October, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that “Six @MSF-supported hospitals in #Sanaa, #Yemen treated more than 400 wounded after an airstrike hit a funeral hall south of the capital.
  • In a report released the following year, the United Nations reported that at least 137 male civilians had been killed, and at least 695 male civilians were left injured, including 24 boys.
  • The UN Panel of Experts reported 132 civilians were killed, along with 695 injured.



  • On 08 October, Reuters reported that Coalition sources were denying involvement in the attack completely. The Saudi State broadcaster Al Arabiya reported the same. The following day, the Saudi Press Agency carried a statement attributed to the Coalition, which said the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) would investigate “the regrettable and painful bombing of the Great Hall in Sana’a.”
  • The SLC Coalition ultimately admitted responsibility for the attack; on 15 October, 2016, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) released the following statement via the Saudi Press Agency: 

“Riyadh, Muharram 14, 1438, Oct 15, 2016, SPA -- The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) initiated an investigation into the October 8th 2016 ceremony hall bombing immediately after it sadly occurred. The Coalition Forces Command have fully cooperated with this investigation.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), JIAT examined all related documents, and assessed evidence, including the rules of engagement (ROEs) and the testimonies of concerned personnel and those involved in the incident. JIAT has concluded that a party affiliated to the Yemeni Presidency of the General Chief of Staff wrongly passed information that there was a gathering of armed Houthi leaders in a known location in Sana'a, and insisted that the location be targeted immediately as a legitimate military target.

The Air Operations Center in Yemen directed a close air support mission to target the location without obtaining approval from the Coalition command to support legitimacy and without following the Coalition command’s precautionary measures to ensure that the location is not a civilian one that may not be targeted. A Coalition aircraft in the area carried out the mission, which resulted in several deaths and injuries.

JIAT has found that because of non-compliance with Coalition rules of engagement (ROEs) and procedures, and the issuing of incorrect information a Coalition aircraft wrongly targeted the location, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.

JIAT has therefore concluded that appropriate action, in accordance with Coalition regulations, must be taken against those who caused the incident, and that compensation must be offered to the families of the victims. Moreover, Coalition forces must immediately review their rules of engagement (ROEs) and update their procedures to ensure adherence in future.

JIAT is still gathering and analyzing data related to the incident, namely reports about some sides that used this erroneous bombing to increase the number of victims, in coordination with the relevant agencies of the legitimate Yemeni government and concerned states, and will announce the results as soon as its investigations are complete.


US Government

Immediately after the attack, a White House National Security Council spokesperson released the following statement

We are deeply disturbed by reports of today's airstrike on a funeral hall in Yemen, which, if confirmed, would continue the troubling series of attacks striking Yemeni civilians. U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check. Even as we assist Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of their territorial integrity, we have and will continue to express our serious concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged. In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led Coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with U.S. principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen's tragic conflict. We call upon the Saudi-led Coalition, the Yemeni government, the Houthis and the Saleh-aligned forces to commit publicly to an immediate cessation of hostilities and implement this cessation based on the April 10th terms.”

In December, 2016, it was reported (NYT 13.12.2016) that the White House was “blocking a transfer of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia because of concerns about civilian casualties that administration officials attribute to poor targeting.”

The UN Group of Eminent Exports:

According to the JIAT, the targeting was based on faulty intelligence provided by Yemeni authorities, and the airstrike was conducted without proper approval or in non-compliance with coalition procedures, including the use of precautionary measures. Based on the circumstances, including the prior advertisement and public nature of the funeral, as well as the timing of the strike, coalition actors should have been aware of the high risk of significant civilian casualties inherent in such a strike. The JIAT explanation would seem to indicate a major fault in the targeting process but it is unclear from their summary where the fault lies.”

UN Panel of Experts on Yemen (a separate entity from the Group of Eminent Experts; the Panel was created to monitor sanctions imposed related to Yemen):

“The Panel finds that: (a) The Saudi Arabia-led coalition conducted the air strike on the community hall in Sana’s that resulted in at least 827 civilian fatalities and injuries. At least 24 injured were children. 330 The air strike also resulted in the total destruction of the community hall; (b) Given the nature of the event and those in attendance, the attack the attack resulted in a very high number of civilian casualties and this should have been anticipated prior to the attack. The Panel is unconvinced that the relevant IHL requirements relating to proportionality were met; (c) These cumulative factors indicate that if precautionary measures had been taken, they were largely inadequate and ineffective. The JIAT also concluded that the relevant rules of engagement and procedures were not followed, and that those responsible in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition “did not take in account the nature of the targeted area”; (d) The second air strike, which occurred three to eight minutes after the first air strike, resulted in more casualties to the already wounded civilians and to the first responders. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition violated its obligations in respect of persons hors de combat and the wounded in what was effectively a “double tap” attack probably caused by the tactics adopted by the pilots to guarantee destruction of the target; (e) Even if an individual officer within the Saudi Arabia-led coalition acted negligently in carrying out the strike, coalition forces are still responsible for the appropriate IHL violations. Under wider international law, the fact that an official acted against instructions is not an adequate justification under wider international law for the relevant member States of the coalition to evade State responsibility for those wrongful acts; and (f) Those officers of the Government of Yemen that reportedly passed the information, or who were otherwise involved in the intelligence gathering and targeting assessment processes in relation to this incident, may also be responsible for any IHL violations to the extent of their contribution.”


Social media posts made in the days after the attack appeared to show components related to a US-made MK 82 bomb.
Human Rights Watch reviewed footage of alleged weapon fragments taken the day after the strike by the Yemeni human rights groups Mwatana and ITV, as well as an unnamed “local activist.” HRW “identified the munition used as a US-manufactured air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb. The identification was based on a review of photos and footage of an intact guidance fin assembly with legible manufacturer’s markings and other weapon remnants.” An GBU-12 Paveway II includes an MK-82 munition, in addition to a guidance system.

Human Rights Watch reviewed footage of alleged weapon fragments taken the day after the strike by the Yemeni human rights groups Mwatana and ITV, as well as an unnamed “local activist.” HRW “identified the munition used as a US-manufactured air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bomb. The identification was based on a review of photos and footage of an intact guidance fin assembly with legible manufacturer’s markings and other weapon remnants.” An GBU-12 Paveway II includes an MK-82 munition, in addition to a guidance system.

Mwatana itself reported that at least one of the munitions used in the funeral attack was a “US-made GBU-12.”

The UN Panel of Experts reported that it had “obtained and analysed post-blast original imagery of the available physical evidence and found that fragments had the shape profile, and fell within the dimension parameters, of a fragment of fins and wings from a GBU-12 Paveway II guidance unit fitted to a Mark 82 high explosive bomb.” The Coalition, the Panel noted, was the only party to the conflict that was capable of delivering that set of munition and guidance system. 

Screenshot from the report of the UN Panel of Experts
Screenshot from the report of the UN Panel of Experts


A huge amount of open source information indicates that on 2016/10/08, shortly before 1530, at least two munitions were dropped on a hall in Sana’a several minutes apart. This hall was filled with hundreds of people and, although some were Houthi commanders and military personnel, many of the attendees of the funeral did not appear to be military personnel. The munitions appear to have detonated under the main hall, killing over 130 people and wounding many hundreds more.


1. International Organizations

  1. Human Rights Watch report
  2. Mwatana report 
  3. Statement from UN SG Ban Ki Moon (10, October 2016)
  4. Statement from UN OHCHR
  5. Amnesty statement
  6. Report of Group of Eminent Experts (Released August, 2018)
  7. Statement by the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen
  8. UN Panel of Experts Report

2. English Language Media reports:

  1. IRIN News/The New Humanitarian
  2. Reuters
  3. Reuters (15.10.2016) — report on JIAT findings. 
  4. ABC News — 
  5. BBC News (video) (link to official page)
  6. The Guardian (report on the initial attack)
  7. The Guardian (Saudi Coalition admits)
  8. Wall Street Journal 
  9. New York Times
  10. New York Times
  11. Al Bab (includes image of munition fragment)

3. Videos:

  1. Telegraph - referred to as the “Telegraph video.”
  2. BBC Documentary, “The Funeral Bombing.” — referred to as the “BBC documentary.”
  3. Footage posted by the AP — Referred to as the “AP video.”
  4. Al Jazeera Report — referred to as the “Al Jazeera video”
  5. ITV report — referred to as the “ITV video.”
  6. Twitter footage — Video appearing to show the second strike, posted on numerous social media accounts. Referred to as the “Tribune of Yemen video”
  7. Al Masirah — referred to as the “Al Masirah video.”
  8. Al Masirah — referred to as the “second Al Masirah video.”
  9. Yemen Today — referred to as the “Yemen Today video.”
  10. Video -  from Yemen Today shown on Al Masirah

4. Social Media Posts: 

  6. (Graphic)
  11. (video)
  12. (photos)
  13. (photo - “50m road, next to Lebanese University”
  14. (early tweet)
  15. (early tweet)
  16. [photos]
  17. (early tweet)
  20. image of munition