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New satellite images of Yemen — before and after airstrikes

Satellite imagery of Sanaa International Airport taken March 22. (Image by DigitalGlobe)
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When an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia began dropping bombs on Yemen last month, one of its first targets was Sanaa International Airport. The airfield in Yemen’s capital is used by both commercial and military aircraft, and was a strategic target after Shiite rebels forced the country’s president to flee Yemen.

DigitalGlobe, a private company that provides satellite imagery to the U.S. government, released to The Washington Post unclassified photos that show the airport before the bombings (as above) and the significant destruction afterward. The initial strikes appear to have been targeted, hitting specific buildings without leveling the whole facility.

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The image above was taken March 22 with DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite, which was launched in August. It shows a wide view of the airport, with commercial and military aircraft across the landscape. Here’s a closer look at some of the aircraft from that same high-resolution image:

Before the bombing started, there appear to have been destroyed planes sitting at the edge of the airfield. It’s not clear whether they had simply fallen into disrepair over time, or whether they had been damaged by ground fire:

The next couple images are key. They show buildings March 22 that likely supported military operations. Note the first one is near fighter jets, lined up to the right. We’ll get back to these structures in a minute:

The bombing began overnight late March 25 and early March 26. Initial reports said that Saudi fighter jets struck the main civilian airport, depicted here, and the Dailami air force base in Sanaa. Here are the same two buildings above, as seen March 27 from DigitalGlobe’s GeoEye-1 satellite, launched in 2008:

Civilian airliners in another part of the airport, meanwhile, were left unharmed as of March 27:

The photographs taken with the WorldView-3 satellite March 22 are particularly detailed — so much so that at one point, releasing them to the public would have been illegal until restrictions were lifted last year. The satellite takes images with “30-centimeter resolution,” meaning they can see items that are as small as one foot wide from space. WorldView-3 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force last summer.

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