TAI10006 - The Haifan Junction Strike

September 1, 2019

Incident ID: TAI10006
Location: Heifan Junction Market
Coordinates: 13.373559, 44.291418
Incident Grading: Likely
Date: 2016-06-27
Time (AST): 2300 - 2348

KEY FINDINGS

 - A strike hit a location just south of a junction referred to as “Haifan Junction”. Reports indicated that the attack occurred about half an hour before midnight on 2016/06/27.

- Multiple accounts, from sources that support both the Houthis and the SLC claim that this was an airstrike There is disagreement as to whether the targeted location was a  market, a weapons warehouse or a vehicle transporting weapons.

- A number of reports indicate that members of armed groups were among the dead. Accounts appear to be contradictory. However, photographs showing those injured by the attack indicate a number of people, who may have been civilians — including children — were among the casualties.

DISCOVERY PROCESS

Searches were carried out using English and Arabic variations of the names “Taiz” and “Haifan” and words “roundabout”, “market”, etc. These search terms were run through Google, with site searches for specific sites of relevance, such as YouTube and the Saudi Press Agency. The search terms were also used in Tweetdeck. In both cases, the results were timebound to focus on the days immediately following the alleged date of the strike, 27 June 2016. Results from these searches can be found organized below this report. 

Example search string: سوق مفرق حيفان

WHERE?

Where did this incident take place?

According to social media reports, the strike occurred at Haifan junction near Al-Rahadah. Most media reports and UGC identify the location as the Heifan junction market, and some reports claim that the strike occurred on “a commercial road that lies between two villages.” 

Confusingly, at least one report — in Reuters — identified the attack as taking place in Haifan district, but placing the market in Lahj governorate. Haifan is indeed inside Taiz governorate, however it lies just on the border with Lahj. Al-Rahadah, for instance, lies just a few kilometers from Lahj. 

Based on the aforementioned local reports, we looked at junctions and roundabouts between Haifan and Al-Rahadah. Using this image, which clearly depicted the same location as other media, we identified a distinctive high feature to the north west of Al-Rahadah which had three antennas on top, as well as a wall with a distinctive bend. 

Top: Satellite imagery of hill north west of Al-Rahadah taken on 2014/02/03. This date was chosen as it shows the antenna clearly. Middle: image of aftermath of strike. Bottom: Landscape view of hill using Google Earth (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

Using these features we identified that the location of the incident must have happened to the immediate south-south west of this high point. The images and videos of this incident all depict a location with a small paved road, and there is only one road to the south-south west of this high point which fits that description. There is a larger road running east-west, however it is too wide, and oriented in the wrong direction. A location tag on Wikimapia identifies the junction of the large east-west road and the road marked in orange as being Haifan Junction.

Paved road outlined in orange. The hill is clearly visible to the north east (top-right) corner. (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

A close examination of the media depicting this incident provided enough information to draw a rough sketch map with key features. Many of these images depicted the same destroyed car from various angles, allowing us to place these key features in relation to one another. The distinctive high hill allowed us to roughly orientate the scene. Only one location along this road fitted the sketch map: 13.373559, 44.291418.

Sketch map compared to suspect location (satellite image courtesy of Bing/Microsoft)


Left: image posted to Twitter, Right: satellite imagery (satellite image courtesy of Bing/Microsoft)


Left: panoramic image of scene constructed from two images posted to Twitter (1, 2), Right: satellite image of scene (courtesy of Bing/Microsoft). Note the shadow of the pole in the satellite image. This can be more clearly be seen in satellite imagery on TerraServer.


Left: satellite imagery of location (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies), Right: image posted to Facebook

What was the location being used for?

Most posts on social media, as well as media reports (see Sources) claim the location as being primarily used by shoppers and storekeepers of the market. There are several claims that this was a market for the sale of petrol and oil derivatives. At least one of the images of this location, looking south, appears to contain a fridge and some other cabinet-shaped object. 

Image of strike location looking south. Note the fridge in the foreground and the other white object in the middle ground. 

Although there are buildings along this route which appear to be commercial in nature, including a bakery which appears to have been created on Google Maps for approximately a year at the time of writing, there is little other open source information which indicates the commercial nature of this location. 

According to some claims on social media and media reports, a vehicle transporting weapons and Houthi military personnel was targeted in the strike. This report says that eyewitness claimed both military personnel and six civilians were killed. There is no obvious visual evidence of the alleged weapons or bodies that we can identify as military personnel, although there are some military personnel in the background of interviews happening in the aftermath of the incident. With the currently available information it’s not possible to confirm the presence or absence of Houthi fighters.

There does appear to be some kind of object on the road very near where this incident took place, immediately next to the building marked as “building with struts”. Although it is not possible to be certain, this may possibly indicate a checkpoint at this location. No images or videos clearly depict this aspect of the scene from the ground and as such it is not possible to confirm exactly what this object is. Using Google Earth and the preview function in TerraServer we can see that an object across the road at this location appears to have existed from at least 2010/12/31 until at least 2016/12/10 and possibly until 2018/09/14. 

Left: image from 2010/12/31. Middle: Undated imagery from Microsoft Bing. Right: 2016/10/16

WHEN?

Date

Most of the media reports of the incident were published on 2016/06/28. Several of these reports (here, here) point to the strike occurring “early Tuesday morning” (28 June). However, the earliest social media posts explicitly mentioning a strike in this area were posted on the 27th. We therefore believe this strike took place on the 27th.

The earliest social media post we found which mentioned a strike in the vicinity of the city of Al-Rahadah was posted on 2348 AST on 2016/06/27. 

Earliest identified social media post. Note that the time is in BST, as the research who identified this post is based in the UK

One minute later, at 2349 AST, different account claimed that a weapons warehouse had been hit by a Coalition airstrike near Haifan Junction. Although we could not identify any warehouse that had been damaged in this strike, the location of Haifan Junction is consistent with other reports.


Post stating weapon warehouse hit. Note that the time is in BST, as the research who identified this post is based in the U

Both Tweets contain hashtags indicating that this events just happened. A third post claimed the airstrike took place at 2330. Although we cannot be certain of the precise time, these posts indicate that this strike took place shortly before 2348 AST on 2016/06/27.

WHAT DAMAGE WAS DONE?

Who Was Affected?

Most of the available content is of the immediate aftermath, with extremely graphic images of the victims. The majority of these images were taken in the dark and focus on injuries.

It is difficult to identify from the bodies due to both the effect of the blast, the focus on injuries, and the low quality of available videos. Some of the victims do visually appear to be young, and possibly children.

Examples of casualties who appear to be young. Left source. Right source.

According to AP, “most of the victims were shoppers or storekeepers in the area that was hit, a commercial road that lies between two villages.

As discussed above, there are also consistent reports that Houthi militia were also killed in this incident. There do appear to be military personnel aiding in the recovery efforts, which must have taken place some time after the strike itself. For example, we can identify a man in military clothes in the background of an interview in this video:

Video


What kind of vehicles are present in UGC?

In multiple images of the scene of this incident, the same pick-up truck can be identified (1, 2, 3). At least some social media posts claim that this vehicle was being used by the Houthis. These claims do not appear entirely consistent with other claims that a Houthi arms depot was targeted in this strike, as it does not appear that any buildings sustained obvious damage in the strike. The effect of the strike seems to have been limited to this vehicle and its immediate surroundings.

The vehicle some social media users claimed was being used by the Houthis

A destroyed motorcycle can also be seen in one image, but, as with the pick-up, it is not possible to confirm who was using it.

Image of strike with motorcycle

WHAT MUNITION WAS USED?

CRATER

There is no obvious impact crater visible in either UGC or satellite imagery. 

REMNANTS

No clear remnants of any munitions are shown in media reports or UGC from the incident. 

WAS IT AN AIRSTRIKE?

Both Houthi and SLC aligned sources claim that this was an airstrike. The primary disagreement appears to be whether Houthis or civilians or both were killed in this strike. 

The contextual information and eyewitness statements describing planes flying overhead appear to support reports that this was an airstrike

CASUALTIES

The casualty count for this strike varies from 15 to 40 fatalities, with the most common number being in the mid 20’s:

AP 25 fatalities (10 civilians), 8 civilians wounded

Almshhadal 26 fatalities, 10 wounded

Khabar Agency 15 fatalities

Sahafah 24 26 fatalities, 10 wounded

Al Thawra News 26 fatalities, 10 wounded

Al Somoud 40 fatalities, 20 wounded

Shaab Online Militant casualties, 6 civilian casualties

Taiz News 26 fatalities, 7 wounded

ABNA 20 fatalities, 15 wounded

STATEMENTS FROM PARTIES TO THE CONFLICT

Local Government

In an official statement issued by Saba News Agency the “leadership of the province of Hajjah and local authorities condemned the brutal crime committed by the Saudi Arabian Airforce in the market of the junction of Heifan district of Taiz province, which killed more than 30 martyrs.” 

The Houthis

No confirmed statement from the Houthis could be identified for this incident.

The SLC

No confirmed statement from the SLC could be identified for this incident.

CONCLUSION

From the sources available it appears likely that on the 2016/07/27 at around 2330 an airstrike hit in the vicinity of 13.373559, 44.291418, destroying a car and killing multiple people. There appears to be contradictory accounts about exactly who the casualties were, with many sources stating civilians were killed, and multiple other sources also claiming Houthi militiamen were killed in this strike. There is limited information about this area, although there is an object on the road near the point of strike which may possibly be a checkpoint of some kind. 

SOURCES

Media reports:

AP 
Almshhadal
 
Khabar Agency
 
Sahafah 24
 
Al Thawra News
 
Al Somoud
 
Shaab Online

Taiz News
 
ABNA
 
Reuters
 
Almshhadalyemeni.net

Bawabatti

Yamayoon

Other:

Local Government statement from Saba News Agency
United Nations map of Taiz


Social Media:

2016/06/27 -  2348: Earliest identified social media post
2016/06/27 - 2349: Claim that weapons warehouse had been hit by Coalition strike
2016/06/27 - 2357: Tweet claiming airstrike just happened near Haifan
2016/06/27 - 2359: Tweet claiming Houthis had been targeted by airstrike
2016/06/27 - 2359: Tweet claiming Houthis with weapons and ammunition hit by airstrike
2016/06/28 - 0133: Tweet from Al Masirah claiming women and children among the casualties
2016/06/28 - 0200: Tweet stating civilians were killed in airstrike
2016/06/28 - 0207: Twitter thread with multiple images of casualties
2016/06/28 - 0213: Facebook post claiming airstrike happened at 2330
2016/06/28 - 0636: highest quality video of aftermath of strike
2016/06/28 - 1819: Tweet with multiple images of scene in daylight
2016/06/28 - 2340: Tweet with images of casualties
2016/06/28 - 2350: Video with Al Masirah watermark posted to Facebook
2016/06/29 - 0007: Low-quality video of aftermath posted to Facebook
2016/06/29 - 2103: Tweet with image looking east
2016/06/29 - 1724: Tweet with image of destroyed vehicle and claim it was used by the Houthis
2016/06/29 - 2357: Facebook post with 12 x images of scene
2016/06/30 - 0226: Tweet with images of casualties
2016/06/29 - Yemen Today video posted to Youtube