Incident ID: SAN20005
Location: Sana’a City, Sanaʽa Governorate
Coordinates: 15.358611, 44.184444
Incident Grading: Confirmed
Time: Approximately 0815 to 0830 AST
This investigation is a modified version of an investigation conducted by our partners, the Yemeni Archive. Their full report can be found here.
- On the morning of 2019/05/16, the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) carried out several airstrikes in and around Sana’a.
- One of these airstrikes hit a residential building in the Raqqas neighbourhood of the city, between approximately 0815 and 0830 AST.
- At least four people died as a result of the airstrike, and at least 33 were injured
- Acknowledging reports of civilian casualties, a spokesperson for the SLC confirmed that details of its operation in Sana’a on 2019/05/16 had been referred to the Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT).
Sources were found by searching for key terms in both Arabic and English across search engines (such as Google and Bing) and social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube). An example of the key terms that were searched is “Sana’a airstrike May 16 2019”. Searches were also conducted using variations of Raqqas, the name of the neighbourhood that was hit by the airstrike. A list of relevant sources found follows below this report.
According to a report from EFE, a Houthi Ministry of Health official said that an airstrike had hit a home in “the neighbourhood of Al Raqqas” on 2019/05/16. Furthermore, a report from Reuters on the airstrike published that same day cited a witness as saying that the airstrike hit a building in the area of “Hael and Raqas” streets.
Images taken at the site of the airstrike show that the building that was hit was located near a complex with distinctive, long walls.
A search for “Raqqas” on Google Maps yields the location of the Raqqas Mosque, which indicated the possible general area of the airstrike. The Raqqas Mosque sits approximately 40 meters from the intersection of Raqqas street and “Hayel” street, a name that is phonetically consistent with the information provided to Reuters by the witness. A visual search of satellite imagery in the area of this intersection shows a building complex with long walls:
A satellite image taken of this area on 2019/05/17 shows what may be debris on the streets in the vicinity of the walled complex:
The information in the satellite image from 2019/05/17 matches images taken on the ground on the day of the airstrike, which showed debris, vehicles and people on the streets to the north and to the east of the building that was hit.
A video from Almasirah recorded from atop one of the buildings in the walled complex shows the rubble of the building that was hit, which is highlighted in the red square below:
A closed-circuit television (CCTV) video taken from a camera in the vicinity of the site captured the moment of the airstrike:
The red sign on the right side of the CCTV footage reads “صالة السمو الملكي”. When searched on Google Maps, this name yields a restaurant that is located approximately 180 meters east of the site of the airstrike:
The restaurant that appears in the CCTV footage is a short distance away from the site of the airstrike, which is highlighted in the red box (Courtesy Google/Maxar Technologies)
Given the position of the airstrike in the CCTV footage relative to the street (on the left of the screen, or the south side of the street), it is possible to determine that the CCTV camera was recording west along the street towards the site of the airstrike.
What was the location being used for?
Open source information indicates that the building was residential. Witness reports given to media outlets like Reuters identified the site as a residential unit. This is evidenced by the fact that the rubble of the building contained items like beds, dressers, and children’s items.
At least two children appear to have been pulled from the rubble, as seen at the 9:30 and 10:40 marks in this video from Al Masirah, which is further evidence that this building was residential.
Was there military activity in the area?
There does not appear to be any evidence in open sources that there was any military activity at the site of the airstrike or its immediate vicinity.
According to Wikimapia, there is a military base located approximately 1.3 kilometers north of the site of the airstrike. According to historical satellite imagery, the buildings at this site have sustained progressive damage since 2014.
According to multiple news agencies, the airstrikes took place on 2019/05/16. This date is corroborated by a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This information is further corroborated by the images and videos shared by Twitter users from the site, the earliest examples of which are dated 2019/05/16. An SLC spokesperson also confirmed the date of the airstrike.
While the timestamps of the two CCTV videos show a discrepancy of approximately six minutes, the window of time that they present—roughly between 0800 and 0830 AST - is consistent with information found in other sources.
According to one witness account, the airstrikes in and around Sana’a began at approximately 0630 AST. In an AFP report, one witness claimed that “there were many strikes” that morning, and that they began at approximately 0800 AST. The time of the first Twitter message reporting that airstrikes were underway in Sana’a came from the Sky News Arabia account at 0824 AST, while the first tweet with images from the scene of this airstrike that we identified was posted at 0914 AST.
A video that captured the moment of the airstrike also allows for an estimation of the time of the event. In the video, a mosque’s dome and minaret are casting shadows onto its roof. These shadows are cast towards the left side of the frame, indicating that the sun was located on the right side of the frame. Since the airstrikes happened in the morning, the sun would have been in the east. This means that the person filming the scene was looking north towards the site of the airstrike.
A visual search of mosques south of the site of the airstrike yields the Bilal Mosque as a match for the one that is seen in the video:
The mosque is located approximately 585 meters away from the site of the airstrike:
The shadow cast by the mosque’s dome and minaret in the video allow for an estimate of the time that the video—and the airstrike that it captured—took place:
Based on this information, the window of time for the airstrike given by the timestamps of the two CCTV videos (approximately between 0815 to 0830 AST) is highly likely to be accurate.
The visual evidence indicates that the airstrike levelled one building and severely damaged several others. This video from Al Masirah shows the remains of the building that was destroyed:
The airstrike also caused damage to adjacent structures, exposing some of their interiors:
Several vehicles that were parked on the streets east of the building that was hit were also damaged:
According to an Abna News Agency report, the airstrike took place near a school called Nusseibeh. This school is housed in the building complex with the block-long walls that is visible in satellite imagery as well as images from the site. According to Wikimapia, this building complex includes the Nusseibeh Girl’s School (مدرسة نسيبة للبنات), and the Moaz bin Jabal Boy’s School (مدرسة معاذ بن جبل للبنين).
A search of the Moaz bin Jabal Boy’s School Facebook page yielded a post dated 2019/05/19 condemning “aggression [a slang term for the SLC] against residential neighbourhoods” and stating that the school had recently been damaged in such an attack. The post included images of damage suffered during that event:
A report published by Almasirah on 2019/05/16 cited Minister of Health and Population Dr. Taha Al-Mutawakil as saying that 77 people had been killed and injured. The minister also reported that six children had been killed, including four from a single family.
Citing preliminary information, the United Nations’ Resident Coordinator in Yemen, Jens Learke, said on 2019/05/17 that five children had been killed in the airstrike and that sixteen others had been injured. Mr. Learke also reported that healthcare workers had also been injured.
The Tweet reportedly contains images purporting to be of official casualty lists from this strike.
The were no craters visible in any open source material.
Two mentions of munition remnants related to this strike were found on Facebook. A user shared two images of what appear to be metal fragments, which he claims came from the munition that caused the explosion:
A second Facebook post was found, containing an image of an object that the user claims “came down on us in the bombing”.
Given the lack of identifying markers on these fragments, it is not possible to positively identify them or state definitively that they came from the munition that destroyed the building in Raqqas on the morning of 2019/05/16. Due to other airstrike happening around this time these fragments could possibly originate from a different strike.
All of the available open source evidence indicates that an airstrike destroyed a residential building and damaged several others in the Raqqas neighbourhood of Sana’a on 2019/05/16 some time between 0815 and 0830 AST. CCTV footage from a camera located approximately 180 meters east of the site clearly captured the moment of the explosion. The aftermath of the airstrike was documented by citizens and the media, and widely reported by local and international outlets, the United Nations, and the SLC.
According to a media report, an official with the SLC confirmed that it was conducting airstrikes in Sana’a on 2019/05/19.
In a report by the Saudi Press Agency, SLC spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Malki said that the coalition had referred the 2019/05/16 airstrike operation in Sana’a to the JIAT “to consider the possibility of an accidental incident”, given the reports of civilian casualties.
In a tweet published on 2019/05/16, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam said that the SLC had launched an attack against a residential area in Sana’a, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties which he claimed were “mostly women and children”.
The Houthi Health Ministry stated that six people (including four children) had been killed in the airstrike, and that at least 41 others had been injured.
On the morning of 2019/05/16, the SLC carried out a series of airstrikes in and around Sana’a. One of these airstrikes hit a building in the Raqqas neighbourhood of the city. This airstrike destroyed what appears to have been a residential building, and damaged several others. Visual evidence from the scene shared by media outlets and citizens indicate that children were among the victims of this airstrike, while several media and non-governmental organization reports indicate that at least four children were killed and dozens more people, who do not appear to have been military personnel, were injured. The SLC confirmed that it conducted airstrikes in and around Sana’a on 2019/05/16 and referred the operation to the JIAT given the reports of civilian casualties.
Tweet with images and video of the airstrike aftermath (contains graphic images)
Tweet with video of the airstrike aftermath filmed from the eastern side of the site
Tweet with an image of the airstrike aftermath taken from the north side of the site
Tweet with images of children being pulled from the rubble (contains graphic images)
Tweet with images from the airstrike aftermath
Tweet with an image showing the destroyed building
Tweet with images of the plumes of smoke and damage at one of the sites
Tweet from Sky News Arabia reporting the airstrikes underway in Sana’a
Tweet with video of children being pulled from the rubble of the site
Tweet with video of smoke plumes rising from airstrike sites
Tweet with message from Houthi spokesperson on the airstrike
Tweet with the first video footage of the airstrike aftermath
Tweet with images purporting to be of casualty lists
Facebook video showing the aftermath of the airstrike
Facebook video showing the aftermath of the airstrike
Facebook video showing the aftermath of the airstrike from the east side of the site
Facebook video showing the rescue operations at the site
Facebook post showing what could be munition fragments
Facebook post showing what could be a munition fragment
YouTube video showing the aftermath of the strike from the east side of the site
YouTube video showing the aftermath of the strike from the east side of the site
YouTube video showing the aftermath of the strike from the north side of the site
YouTube video of CCTV footage of strike
UN News report on the airstrike
United Nations press conference clip on the airstrike
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs statement on the airstrike
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs update for Yemen mentioning the airstrike
CARE statement from relief worker who witnessed the airstrikes
Almasirah video from the scene showing the aftermath of the airstrike
Al Belqees video on the airstrike
France24 report on the airstrikes
AFP report on the airstrike citing witness accounts of the airstrikes
PressTV report on the airstrike, including video from the site
The Guardian report on the airstrike
Reuters report on the airstrike
Voice of America report on the airstrike (published 2019/05/17)
Voice of America report on the airstrike (published 2019/05/16)
Almasirah report on the airstrike (published 2019/05/18)
Almasirah report on the airstrike (published 2019/05/16)
Iran Press report on the airstrike
EFE report on the airstrike, including a video from the site
Shutterstock page with stock images taken at the site of the airstrike