Incident ID: SAN10017
Location: Tahrir, Sana’a City, Sana’a
Coordinates: 15.348216, 44.204964
Incident Grading: Confirmed
Time (AST): Shortly before 1044 AST
- In this strike two munitions were used in quick succession, late in the morning of 2018/05/07. Both hit a government building located in the central Tahrir district of the Yemeni capital.
- The Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) admitted targeting the government building, which they refer to as the Presidential Palace, an incorrect reference. Open sources in fact indicate the targeted building was the Office of the Presidency, which is a smaller building situated the dense Tahrir district. The aid group NRC condemned the attack on what it called a crowded “business district.”
- The implications of this apparent misidentification in the target selection process are unclear, however, the incorrect name was widely repeated in mainstream Western and regional press, wires, etc. It is important to note that the Presidential Palace, or the Presidential Compound, is a large, relatively isolated building and targeting it would likely not risk a large number of civilian casualties.
- The SLC claimed that it targeted two prominent Houthi leaders who were, in fact, alive after the strike.
- Casualty claims ranged widely. Though Houthi-aligned sources were consistent in reporting at least 6 deaths, it wasn’t clear if all of these were civilians. A review of open source records indicates that at least some casualties caused by this strike may have been civilians. Houthi-controlled outlets, citing local health officials, reported between 30-60 wounded. Though difficult to confirm, the amount of damage to the building and surrounding areas, as well as the nature of the strike, is not inconsistent with such high numbers.
By searching the terms “مكتب الرئاسة صنعاء” which means “Office of the Presidency Sana’a,” on Twitter and YouTube with the specified date range of 2018/05/07 to 2018/05/10, we were able to discover many videos and posts seeming to depict the same incident with the same geographic features. These included media reports and User Generated Content (UGC) depicting this event. A full list of sources can be found below this report.
Due to the Presidential Palace being mentioned in multiple media reports, this incident was initially believed to have affected that location. However, the correct location was eventually identified using UGC and media reports in the vicinity of 15.348216, 44.204964, which we identified as the Office of the Presidency in Tahrir, Sana’a City.
Multiple other aspects of buildings and details observed within Video 5 can be seen in other videos, confirming that they all depict the same location. Video 1, for example, was taken at an intersection immediately to the west of the compound.
What was this location being used for?
Video 2, posted by Ruptly on May 7, 2018, depicts a man covered in dust and with blood on his face, apparently walking away from the blast scene to the east and then and turns left on the main street to walk north. There is a bridge behind him, which comes to an end as he walks forward. To his left, we see the white and pink building and a tree afterward.
The bridge in the background can be identified as “جسر الصداقة” at 15.349353, 44.206284. The location of this interview in close proximity to the bombed location, its upload date on 2018/05/07, and the fact that in other footage it shows recent damage from this strike, including bloodstains, strongly indicate that this interview is from the same strike.
The man states that the airstrike hit a government office. The victim describes the attack and specifies that this is a bureaucratic building where regular employees work.
Video 3 depicts the same locations and damage but also includes a paper in the rubble with the official letterhead of the Office of the Presidency.
On Wikimapia, a crowdsourced mapping platform, this location has been marked as the “Office of the Presidency” or “Presidential Administration” in one form or another since before the start of the war. Although Wikimapia does not clearly mark the date of edits, it does give a rough time period. In this case “8 years ago” this location was marked as being the “Presidential Administration” in the Russian language. Since then various edits have been made, however the core meaning of the location has remained consistent.
Open Street Map also identifies that the Ministry of Public Works is in this compound, although it cannot be established how long this has been marked.
In Video 4 the camera moves around the interior of the targeted compound. This footage does not appear to show any military vehicles, however it should be noted that Al Masirah, who took this footage, have a strong relationship with the Houthi government.
The open sources available indicate that at least two munitions were dropped at or in the vicinity of this location. At least two videos (Video 1 and Video 5) capture the same moment a secondary munition detonated.
After close examination it appears that Video 5 has been cut and rearranged. The last 1:10 of the footage actually appears to have taken place before the secondary strike. The casualty seen lying in the rubble at 2:05 in the footage appears to be the same casualty being evacuated at 00:10 in the footage.
Furthermore, we can also see this casualty in Video 1, shortly after the secondary strike took place. In Video 5 we see the casualty being evacuated in a westerly direction by a man wearing a desert digicam jacket. A few seconds after the casualty is evacuated a secondary strike takes place. In Video 1 we see a man in a desert digicam jacket, holding a casualty, emerge from the dust cloud caused by the secondary strike.
Establishing the timeline in Video 5 is important, as the second segment shows multiple casualties lined up against a wall near the point of detonation. We can therefore establish this segment was filmed shortly before the secondary strike. These casualties, almost certainly caused by the first detonation, would therefore have likely been caught in the secondary detonation.
It is quite clear that the force of the blast threw rubble and debris across the street to the north of the compound. In multiple videos this debris can be seen scattered outside the compound.
Structural damage appears to have been focused on the eastern wing of a central building within the compound. Satellite imagery before and after the strike indicate that at least one floor, possibly two, has either been completely removed or “pancaked” into the floor below.
This is corroborated by Video 4 which was taken by Al Masirah. It shows this destruction from several angles and confirms the floors at the eastern end of the building have pancaked into each other. A Yemen Project munitions expert stated that this structure exhibited clear evidence of an airstrike.
Who was targeted?
Although there did not seem to be a notable military presence before the strike, at least three uniformed personnel appear in a video after the strike. In the aftermath there appeared to be additional military personnel inside the compound, possibly who had responded after the strike or who were providing security. In the street outside, there appear to only be civilian vehicles.
Media from a SLC-allied country reported that the targets of the strike were Mahdi al-Mashat, the head of the Supreme Political Council (SPC) and head of state of Houthi-aligned authorities, and Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Supreme Revolutionary Council. Both have made public appearances following this strike
As can be seen in multiple videos and images, the explosions of these munitions and their effects were not limited to the compound itself. It is clear that people and buildings in the streets adjacent to the compound were also affected.
The videos we discovered and verified showed multiple casualties who do not appear to be military personnel. After reviewing satellite imagery and video evidence, it is clear the targeted building is in a populated area. The Norwegian Refugee Council described this area as a “highly-populated business district”.
All sources, including the SLC, agree strike took place on 2018/05/07, which was a Monday.
A Tweet posted about this strike, stating that it was happening “now” can be timed accurately via the unix time-stamp found in the Twitter web source code, which is: 1525679099, or 1044 AST. Therefore the first strike could have occurred no later than 1044 AST.
We can be confident that at least one of the images in this post depicts an incident that happened in the vicinity of the compound in question by geolocating the image and dust cloud. We can identify the location of the camera at 15.344649, 44.192523. We can also identify a group of buildings in the background at 15.347767, 44.203083. By lining up those two points we can see that the base of the dust cloud originates from the compound that was attacked in this incident.
Although the shadows are relatively short in the videos that show the second munition detonating, making it difficult to accurately analyse their angle, we can identify a time window using the proportionate length of the shadows.
In the image above, the shadow, measured from the object’s highest point, is 0.43 times the height of the object. Using Suncalc.org we input these numbers by setting the object height as 1 meter and adjusting the time until the shadow is 0.43 meters. The time given by Suncalc when these numbers are input is approximately 1022 AST. It should be noted that in these specific circumstances there is a measure of inaccuracy within the calculation, and that this should be used as a rough approximation.
Citing local health officials, Houthi-controlled media reported that at least six people were killed.
The number of wounded reported by Houthi-run sources ranged from 30-60. It was unclear how many — or if all — of those killed or wounded were civilians. A review of open source material indicates multiple people who do not appear to have been military personnel were likely injured or killed.
Sabaanews.net: 60 wounded, six killed, including 1 child
Al Jazeera: 30 wounded, six killed
A Reuters report, citing Houthi-controlled al Masirah TV, put the number wounded at upwards of 30.
The SLC has not acknowledge any civilian casualties from this attack.
Although no crater can be identified, the damage caused to the compound was consistent with an airstrike.
No remnants of munitions were identified from this strike.
At least two video sources clearly show a secondary munition detonated in quick succession after the first, both of which appear to have hit the Office of the Presidency. At the time of the second detonation, people were still reacting to the first; Video 1 shows at least one apparent bloodied casualty in a van, surrounded by agitated people, at the moment the second munition detonated.
In Video 5, which is captured in front of the Office of the Presidency, casualties can be seen amidst the rubble of the first airstrike when the second munition detonates. This video also clearly shows people who do not appear to be military personnel aiding casualties immediately next to the targeted building.
Although it is not possible to confirm using open sources that those responding to casualties were deliberately targeted, it is clear that these people would have been affected by the detonation of the second munition, possibly becoming casualties themselves.
The SLC Coalition stated that they had carried out this attack:
"The airstrike targeted the first and second ranking Houthi leadership. The move is based on the accurate intelligence and information sources we obtained. If Saleh al-Samad's death in the previous attack dealt a heavy blow to the Houthi, this attack will make them more painful."
Saudi Coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki on 2018/05/07.
The SLC Coalition did not say whether the strikes had achieved its goal, killing the first and second ranking Houthi leadership.
Houthi-controlled Saba News reported at least 66 casualties — 6 dead, including one child, and at least 60 injured — in a SLC attack on “the presidential office at al-Tahrir densely populated neighborhood in… Sanaa,” citing a “security official.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council, which has an active presence in Yemen, including Sanaa, released the following statement:
“The Norwegian Refugee Council is appalled by Saudi-led coalition strikes on a highly-populated business district in Sana’a earlier today. We abhor the ongoing use of violence to intimidate civilian populations under the guise of efforts to protect them. Yemeni people are not collateral. Adherence to the laws of war is not optional…”
Sabaa News also reported that a nearby school was affected: “the director of Gamal Abdel Nasser School in al- Tahrir neighborhood said the school was forced to stop exams as a result of the airstrikes that resulted in the injury of a number of students, which caused panic to the school's students as they were taking their exams at the end of the school year.”
On 2018/05/07, shortly before 1044 AST, at least two munitions targeted a compound in Sana’a. Although multiple sources reported that the Presidential Palace had been hit, open sources indicated that it was in fact the Office of Administration of the President that had been hit. Open sources did not appear to indicate any clear military targets and the two persons the SLC identified as the target of this strike both appear to have survived. However, the second munition certainly affected people who had rushed to the area to give aid to casualties caused by the first strike.
Fox News report
AP report - contains SLC statement in Arabic
Video 1 - UGC of strike, including moment of impact of secondary munition
Video 2 - RT Arabic video depicting immediate aftermath of strike
Video 3 - France 24 Arabic depicting later aftermath of strike
Video 4 - Al Masirah report
Video 5 - UGC of strike, including moment of impact of secondary munition from very close perspective
Social Media Posts
Twitter thread with images and videos of incident
Twitter post with images of strike
Twitter post with images of strike
Twitter post with video
Twitter post with video
Twitter post with video
Twitter post with image
Twitter post with image of casualties in hospital
Twitter post with images
Twitter post with images of general area after strike
Twitter post with video of casualty trapped under car