TAI20001 - Mawiyah Fuel Station Strike

August 27, 2019

Incident ID: TAI20001
Location: Taiz, Mawiyah 
Coordinates; 13.6404306, 44.3758028
Incident Grading: Likely
Date: 2019/05/24
Time: 0911-1402 AST

KEY FINDINGS

- A fuel station at 13.6404306, 044.3758028 was hit by a strike on Friday 2019/05/25 between 0911-1402 AST

- Multiple reports state that this incident resulted in 12 fatalities. Further reports, videos and images indicate there were multiple children among the dead. 

- A structure near the fuel station may be a Houthi checkpoint, but does not appear to have been destroyed or damaged in this attack.

DISCOVERY

During this process, we used several different search engines to search for variations of Taiz in English and Arabic, which we combined with key terms such as “attack”, “airstrike”, “aerial attack”, “aggression”, and “petrol station” in both English and Arabic. We used date specific searches on these search engines, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. We started with gathering larger pieces of evidence that corroborate the attack, such as reports from large international bodies and NGOs. Then, we dove into social media looking for user generated content from the attack and any more specific details about the location or time of day that the incident took place. 

(See SOURCES section at end of piece for full list of sources)

WHERE 

All of the reports that listed a specific directorate for the fuel station indicated that it was in the Mawiya directorate in Taizz. Beyond that, several local news reports indicated that it belonged to Ahmed Hassan al-Bahr. By searching for “oil derivatives station” in Arabic in Google maps in the vicinity of the directorate, we found several potential matches.

After thorough search of the area along metalled roads for fuel stations with a red tank and a white building behind it, we found what appeared to be a match at 13.6404, 044.3758. We identified that this location had key features that could also be identified in images and videos taken at this location. 

In the image below the remains of the fuel station can be seen in the back left, while in the foreground a road, improvised speed-bump and small structure can be seen. We confirmed using the TerraServer preview tool that this small structure was present in the most recent satellite imagery, taken on 2018/09/14.

Top: composite panorama of a video posted by Ansar Allah media center. Bottom: satellite image taken on 2017/06/12 (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies) Note the improved speed-bump and small building to the left. 

Although in this panorama the road appears to be dirt, the camera does in fact appear to be filming on the metalled road visible in satellite imagery. In this Al Masirah footage, starting at 02:46, the interview appears to be taking place on the metalled road, which is visible in the background. A bush which appears to have the same plastic bags caught in it is visible in both the Al Masirah and Ansar Allah footage, indicating they were filmed in almost the same place.

The bushes in the background of the Al Masirah (bottom) and Ansar Allah (top) footage  appear to have the same configuration of plastic bags caught in a bush, indicating they were taken in the same place.

Key features of the fuel station itself can be seen on satellite imagery too, including a distinctive red object, and a small structure on the south side of the fuel station awning. 

View looking west from fuel station. Top: still from Al Masirah video, Middle: satellite imagery of this location taken on 2017/06/12, Bottom: landscape view of this location looking west. (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)


View looking south from fuel station. Top: still from Al Masirah video, Bottom: satellite imagery of this location taken on 2017/06/12 (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)

Using more up-to-date, but lower resolution imagery from Planet Labs, we can see that this structure changed significantly in appearance between the 24-25 May 2019. This strike appears to have taken place on the 2019/05/24, which is consistent with the change seen in the Planet Labs imagery.

Top: Satellite imagery from 2019/05/24. Bottom: Satellite imagery from 2019/05/25 (courtesy of Planet Labs) 

What was this location being used for?

Multiple reports state that this location was a fuel station. Its structure is certainly consistent with some kind of fuel station, with a large overhead awning and items which may be associated with a fuel station, such as oil drums and what appears to be a price indicator for a pump. 

What appears to be the remains of a fuel pump seen in the Al Alam TV report.

This also appears to be some kind of structure on the road immediately next to this fuel station which may be a checkpoint. As well as the flag of Yemen, this structure is also painted with what appears to be the distinctive red and green slogan of the Houthi Movement.

Image of structure which may be a checkpoint from Ansar Allah video

This structure can be seen in satellite imagery using the TerraServer preview function from 2017/04/27, and has remained there until the most recent satellite imagery at the time of writing, which was 2018/09/14. It is approximately 25 meters away from the main structure of the fuel station. It should also be noted that there appear to be improvised speed-bumps along this section of road.

Location of structure which may be a checkpoint marked in yellow in satellite imagery taken on 2017/06/12. Note the pale lines running across the road, which appear to be improvised speed-bumps (courtesy of Google/Maxar Technologies)

Although this structure does appear to be a checkpoint, it does not appear to have been destroyed, or even damaged, in this airstrike.

It should also be noted that in videos taken after the strike, there are several armed men, some of whom are dressed in military fatigues and are wearing military webbing. 

Armed men wearing military uniform and webbing can be seen in video reports from this location. Left: Al Masirah, Right: Al Alam TV


WHEN?

Date

All reports, both from official NGOs and from local media, agree that the attack took place on 2019/05/24. This includes the official statement from the UNHCR corroborating that date and what appears to be an official document from the incident filed by the Houthi government. 

Time

Some reports claim that this attack took place overnight but this is inconsistent with the information we found. Several local news articles claimed the incident took place during Friday prayers, which take place around noon.

The earliest social media post we identified which explicitly mentioned a fuel station had been targeted was posted at 1402 AST by @ansarollah2, which appears to be the Twitter account for Ansarollah. The post stated that some kind of fuel stating had been bombed in the vicinity of Mawiyah. 

Post by @ansarollah2, mentioning airstrike. Note that the timestamp shows BST

Imagery taken by a Planet Labs satellite on 2019/05/24 at 0911 AST does not show any obvious damage to this location, indicating the strike must have taken place after this time. 

Taking into account social media posts and satellite imagery, this strike must have taken place between 0911-1402 AST, which is consistent with other reports that this strike took place at about noon. 

WHAT DAMAGE WAS DONE?

The fuel station itself has clearly been destroyed, leaving only the metal support for the awning. At least one vehicle, a truck, parked next to the station was also destroyed by the strike. A second vehicle may have also been destroyed under the awning, but the extent of the destruction is such that it is not possible to be confident on this point.

Destroyed truck seen in Al Masirah footage


Possible destroyed vehicle to the right of a still from the Al Masirah footage. The destroyed truck can be seen to the left of this still

A small building, which appears to have two rooms, immediately next to the awning was also partially destroyed. The interior of the two rooms can be seen in videos from Al Alam TV and Al Masirah. One room, marked in red below, appears mostly empty, while the second, marked in yellow, appears to have contained flammable substances which resulted in a fire.

Small building partially destroyed in strike. Top: eastern room, as seen in Al Alam TV footage. Middle: Al Alam TV footage in which both rooms of the small building can be seen. Bottom: western room, as seen in Al Masirah footage.

CASUALTIES

Reports consistently claim that 12 civilians were killed, including 7 children. There are multiple, extremely graphic images of charred corpses, including one group in blankets. The size and appearance of some of these corpses indicate that multiple children were among the fatalities. The group of bodies in blankets can be seen in the Ansar Allah video, strongly indicating they were indeed fatalities from this incident. 

Composite panorama of the Ansar Allah video. The fuel station can be seen on the left, and the bodies seen in multiple images and videos of this incident are on the right. 

Most sources agree that at least 12 civilians were killed, including 7 children. 

- Middle East Eye: nine killed

- Yamanyoon: nine killed

- Relief Web: 12 killed

- UNHCR: at least 12 civilians killed

- UN Office of the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen: 12 civilians killed, including seven children

- UNICEF: seven children between the ages of four and 14 were killed

- What appears to be an official report from incident stated 12 were killed and one wounded. This report also lists the names and ages of the casualties and does include seven children:

  1.  Akram Amin Abdullah Valid. 10 years 
  2. Ghazi Saleh Ahmad Al-Hamdi. 9 years 
  3. Hamza Mohammed Saeed Saleh. 8 years 
  4. Yousef Adel Muthanna 12 years 
  5. Mohammed Abdo Al-Aqil. 14 years 
  6. Mohammed Khaled Taha Al-Shawaifi 40 years 
  7. Mohammed Al-Nadi 35 years 
  8. Mohammed Muqbel Al-Ariqi 14 years 
  9. Omar Mohammed Muqbel Al-Ariqi 13 years
  10. In addition to the presence of 3 unidentified martyrs present in the field hospital refrigerator

WHAT MUNITION WAS USED 

There are no identifiable remnants of any munition or any visible craters in images or videos of the aftermath of this event. 

WAS IT AN AIRSTRIKE?

The damage to the structure of the fuel station indicates that it was damaged in an explosion rather than a fire. Multiple accounts indicate that this damage was a result of an airstrike. It therefore appears likely that this was indeed an airstrike. 

STATEMENTS BY PARTIES TO CONFLICT

The SLC 

The SLC made two statements regarding incidents in Taiz around this time. Their first statement was on May 24th, in which they claim that the Yemeni army “made ground progress towards Jabal al-Wa’ash” after fighting against the Houthis. They claim that the Yemeni army “destroyed a tank and burned a burned a vehicle belonging to the militia of Houthi” and that “dozens of them were killed and wounded during the fighting.” 

The second statement was on May 25th and claims that the National Army made new progress in the North of Taiz and claimed it managed to control the “al-Jahim station and surrounding buildings, one of the main defense lines for rebels in the North of the governorate center.” They also claim that according to the “official Yemeni news agency, more than 13 of the Houthi militia were killed”. They mention airstrikes by claiming that “the artillery brigade 170 air defense was able to target a number of fortified sites and destroy them completely.''

Neither of these statements directly mention the attack on the petrol station and it is therefore difficult to ascertain whether the fuel station may have been included in one of the “fortified sites” that was destroyed. However, these were the only statements released mentioning Taiz around the time of the attack. 

HOUTHI

A spokesman for the Houthi, Mohammad Abdulsalam, wrote this tweet on the day of the incident condemning what had happened and claiming to add it to the criminal record of the aggression against the Yemeni people: 

Tweet


CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the fuel station at 13.6404306, 44.3758028 was hit by an airstrike on May 24, 2019 between 0911-1402 AST. Reports, as well as images and videos taken from the scene, indicate that multiple people were killed, including several children. It should be noted that there does appear to be what may be a Houthi checkpoint immediately next to this fuel station, but that it does not appear to have been destroyed or damaged in this strike.

SOURCES

Media Reports

NGO Reports 

Other

Social Media

Twitter: 

2019/05/24 1402 AST https://twitter.com/ansarollah2/status/1131878165142491136
2019/05/24 1411 AST https://twitter.com/MasirahTV/status/1131880299032399872
2019/05/24 1503 AST Tweet with image after incident and image of smoke 
2019/05/24 1916 AST Tweet with image after the incident 
2019/24/05 1611 AST Tweet from the Houthi spokesman describing the incident
2019/24/05 2200 AST  Tweet withe images of injuries and the incident site
2019/05/25 1201 AST Tweet with video after the incident, including interviews
2019/05/25 1346 AST Tweet with image of fatality and of possibly official paperwork 
2019/05/25 1446 AST Tweet with image of the scene after the incident and fatalities
2019/05/25 1551 AST Tweet with image of official document and aftermath images
2019/05/25 1730 AST Tweet with video of the scene after the incident
2019/05/25 2116 AST Tweet including pictures of the scene and fatalities


Youtube: 

2019/05/25 0012 AST Youtube video showing the scene after the incident and fatalities
2019/05/25 0207 AST Youtube video showing scene after the incident, including interviews
2019/05/26 0142 Youtube video from a news channel describing the incident


Facebook:

2019/05/24 1407 AST https://www.facebook.com/hafeed000/posts/10211297736719085
2019/05/24 1924 AST  Facebook post with image of incident 
2019/05/25 0151 AST   Facebook post with information including the names of those killed 
2019/05/25 2212 ASTFacebook post information about the strike