Aden airport rocket attack December 30 2020

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Two explosions from projectiles struck Aden airport whilst members of new 'unity government' were being received as they disembarked from their flight from Saudi Arabia. 28 people were killed. The unity government was the result of a power sharing deal, under the reanimated Riyadh accord, between the exiled Saudi coalition backed government and the UAE backed Southern Transition Council. UK and US officials have blamed the Houthis, with the attack being cited as justification in the outgoing US State Dept's listing of Ansarallah as a terrorist organisation. This attribution remains highly questionable. It is likely that the attack stems from a party to the conflict in South Yemen, rather than the northern based Ansarallah. Building from objections raised in this ISWNews analysis, we put forward criticism of the official narrative below. We suggest a plausible alternative attribution also.

See also UAE Saudi proxy conflict: southern seperatists and Hadi government in exile


APC's on tarmac.png
Recovered fragments displayed in Hadi govt presser
In the airport attack, loud blasts and gunfire were heard shortly after the plane arrived from Riyadh, witnesses said. A local security source said three mortar shells had landed on the airport’s hall.
Different parties to the conflict were also quick to blame each other, with the separatist Southern Transitional Council blaming Qatar and Turkey


Map of frontlines, Dec 30. The closest point of Ansarallah control on the map shown is Kirsh, approx 80+km from Aden airport.

Aden govt press conference

  • Video - Youtube: @user-mk5zl9cq6v - مؤتمر وزير الداخلية حول استهداف مطار عدن الدولي
(without translation)

Bellingcat and partners investigation: Criticism

The terminal building faces roughly to the NNW. The impact came from the NW but the photo analysis cannot provide such a narrow vector as Bellingcat indicate. A slightly more westerly trajectory from eg Al-Ahukm is not precluded.
Direction of origin cannot be determined as precisely as Bellingcat imply
The attack on the airport of a busy port city was caught on multiple videos. But so were a number of missile launches from Houthi-held cities to the North-West of Aden — on the very same day. An analysis of open source information from these locations suggests that, despite their denials, the Houthis were most likely responsible for the attack on Aden airport.

Problems with the account

The "Houthis" had not been shy about claiming missile or drone strikes, including on airports or infrastructure in both the KSA or UAE. They were keen to publicize their capacity for such strikes. However, they denied responsibility for this attack. Any motives they would have for the strike are not accounted for, nor any reason suggested for what would be a change in their posture.
The missiles "were using a navigation system that relied on a precise GPS-guided technology", and were "medium-range surface-to-ground ballistic missiles with a range of 70 to 135 km", according to local officials. But the videos of launches referenced by Bellingcat appear to be of rudimentary rockets, like the Qassam, with a maximum range of at most 20km.
The sites geolocated by Bellingcat are at much greater distance (Taiz airport 136km and Dhamar considerably further) from Aden airport. As presented, their investigation with its weak conclusion do not account for the attack.
(Qassam specification here shows 20 km range at most. See also the Grad, with comparable parameters, which after long development history in several countries achieved ranges from 13 to 52 km, with early modifications range of about 20 km). While range is sensitive to parameters (weight ratios, air resistance, etc), geolocated distance appears to be well outside the expected range of the device presented on video and photos; the latter can be estimated as about 20 km, or less.

UN investigation

March 30 The UN investigators apparently consider that the attack must have have come from the sites geolocated by Bellingcat and say that only 'the huthis' had the capability.
The experts presented their report to the UN committee that oversees Yemen-related sanctions during closed consultations on Friday, but Russia blocked its wider release, the diplomats said. They asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter...
The UN expert panel determined that the Huthis launched missiles at Aden airport from two locations that were under the movement’s control at the time, the airport in Taiz and a police station in Dhamar, the diplomats said.

Taiz Axis forces, likely suspects?

A few days later January 5, 2021 reports that STC militias had launched operations against Al-Islah in Lahj region's strategic heights. ::...the announcement made by the STC indicates that it comes in response to the deployment of Islah militants on the heights of Tor al-Bahah, al Maqatirah and al-Madaribah areas...Click for map locations and more
Al Maqatirah district, close to Tor al Baha, is marked

There are reported to be three Yemeni Brotherhood (Al-Islah) military bases in the Tur al Baha (or Tawr al-Bahah) district. Tur al Baha is approx 70km north-west of Aden Airport (Zoom earth location). The bases are located in the mountainous area south/south-east of Taiz city.

Official investigators stated that the missiles came from the North-West. So the video evidence of the impacts would be consistent with an attack from that region. The Turkish and Qatari supported, Yemeni Brotherhood Taiz Axis forces were not reconciled with the STC. In fact a few days after the attack, January 5, 2021 reports surfaced that STC militias had launched operations against Al-Islah in Tor al-Bahah and nearby strategic heights.

At Turbah said to be a contested area between the UAE backed 35th Armoured Brigade and Al-Islah lies 105km from Aden airport.

This report from Feb 2021 claims Turkish supplied missile systems and drones were in place at one of the camps. Given also the hostility between Turkey and the UAE, these 'Taiz-axis' forces would seem to be the most likely suspects for the attack, which was executed with high - if not total - accuracy.

For more See talk


Examining the dimensions and details of the recent rocket attack on Aden airport denies the allegations made against Ansar Allah and Iran regarding the execution and responsibility of this attack...

For ACLOS discussion see talk page