Wide-Area Impact ReportAn Anatomy of an Air Strike

Yemen case study: bombing of the al-Asadi home

This report is part of a series of case studies that make up an analysis of the wide area effects of certain explosive weapons and the concern about their use in populated areas. The report – Wide-Area Impact – can be read hereA video also accompanies this case study – it can be viewed here. Iona Craig can be heard talking about the strike, and her view of the Yemen conflict, here.

Map of strikes recorded surrounding the al-Asadii home, 8 September 2015.Shortly after midnight on 8 September 2015 a single aerial bomb hit the residential home of the al-Asadi family in Yemen. Their home [mark 1 on map to the right] lay in the northwestern district of Sana’a – an area called Libya City.

The district is less than 2km from the First Armoured Division base, the city’s largest military camp, as well as being less than 150 meters from a state-owned compound that had previously been hit by aerial bombing [12-14 on map].

The bomb fell between 00:00 and 00:30, completely destroying a single-storey home owned by two brothers, Zaid and Ali al-Asadi.

Three members of the al-Asadi family were killed in the attack on 8 September, including two children. Another eight were injured. The building was home to 13 family members, as well as three other people being hosted by the al-Asadis.

When the bomb struck, 11 people were asleep inside the house. They included Zaid’s wife Mariam and their four children, and Ali’s wife (also called Mariam) and their three children. The bomb hit the west side of the house, completely collapsing a third of the building, and bringing down the upper floor that was acting as a roof for those sleeping below.

At the time of the blast, Zaid al-Asadi was standing outside his property. He was killed by a falling concrete column. Two of Ali’s children inside the house, 18-month-old Buthanyal and seven-year-old Bilal, also died when the building collapsed on top of them.

When AOAV visited the al-Asadi home nine days after the strike, a crater approximately two feet deep was clearly visible. A variety of bomb remnants were also found at the site, the largest of which had an estimated weight of more than 1.5 kg. A serial number on that fragment was traced and it is extremely suggestive that the weapon was part a Paveway II series manufactured by the US arms manufacturer Raytheon.

Bomb remnant found inside the al-Asadi house.A government-owned compound containing the abandoned houses of a southern separatist leader, Mohammed Ali Ahmed (Figure 2, marks 12-14) may have been the intended target. Neighbours claimed that one of the houses in the compound had previously been used by Abu Ali Hakim, a senior Houthi commander, after the Houthis seized control of Sana’a in September 2014. However, although the al-Asadi family could be described as Houthi supporters or sympathises, none were fighters or political figures.

For a single conventional bomb, the physical damage was significant and widespread. Women and children living in the neighbouring house (Figure 2, mark 2) were covered with shattered glass as they slept. Furniture and objects were thrown by the blast which tore through the house, destroying glass windows and window frames on the southern side of the building and buckling window frames on the blast exit side of the house. None of those inside the neighbouring house at the time of the bombing were injured.

Munition fragment containing serial numbers of Paveways.Witnesses reported seeing a burst of flames when the airstrike hit, and a survivor Abu suffered burns to his legs, but evidence at the site suggested that the fire caused by the explosion was not widespread. Rubble scattered by the bomb crushed several vehicles parked outside the home. The bomb damage extended to the building behind the immediate neighbours’ house. Despite some apparent protection due to the neighbouring high wall, this house suffered extensive damage to glass, window frames, and a corrugated metal extension.

The airstrike caused physical damage up to 70 meters away, breaking windows in a house behind a high wall. This building had previously been damaged in a strike on the government compound in June, so was empty during September’s bombing.

The range of the damage from the bomb appears to have been limited by the fact that the buildings in the immediate area were detached properties, set back from the road and behind high walls. Window damage also appears to have been limited by windows being left open allowing for blast absorption.

Buildings in Sana’a are not made to withstand harsh weather, let alone aerial strikes. Breezeblock homes are often flimsily built using poor materials that may not withstand blast shockwaves easily. As in this case study example, families often live in buildings that are still under construction, and as such may be more vulnerable to collapse.

Traditional Yemeni homes are built with mud-brick and stone bases. Wooden beams support roofs made with mud mixed with straw. While this makes such buildings often more blast resistant, when bombs directly hit traditional homes the consequences are often as deadly. These homes are usually four to seven stories high. When hit they collapse, leading to death by suffocation rather than crush injuries. Such suffocation deaths as a result of aerial bombings have most often been seen in rural areas, where traditional homes are more common.

Saada, one of the worst-affected areas by the Saudi-led bombing campaign, has seen many such deaths, with scores of traditional mud tower houses being bombed and destroyed.