On the morning of October 5, Ali Mohammed “Jubahi” Medarij set out early from his family home in al-Hayma, a coastal fishing village on the Red Sea in western Yemen. Every day, the 34-year-old fisherman traveled 9 miles to a local market — not to sell his catch, but to look for work.
The father of five had not taken his boat to sea in months. Eight other fishermen had already gone missing, presumed dead from attacks by the Saudi naval blockade. Jubahi had joined the other fisherman and dragged his boat onto the beach, where it sat idle while he struggled to support his wife, elderly father, and children.
But on that fall day, Jubahi’s trip to the market was successful. He returned in the early afternoon to share a meal with his family, before wandering down to the beach by himself. According to his father, Jubahi slipped underneath an overturned boat to escape the afternoon sun, and — exhausted — closed his eyes to sleep.
He never woke up.
Villagers in al-Hayma told The Intercept they heard rumbling around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Soon after, they saw a jet from the Saudi-led coalition circling over the coast. Assisted by the U.S. with weapons and intelligence, Saudi Arabia has been bombing and blockading Yemen for 21 months.
“The warplane was hovering toward the shoreline before I saw something with parachutes falling down,” said Yahya Qassem Zabah, a local fisherman. “For a moment I thought that soldiers were landing. Then I heard a number of explosions soon after that.”
What Zabah saw was not a soldier parachuting toward the coast, it was a cluster weapon. In mid-air, its shell casing opened and released cylinder-shaped bomblets, which scattered as they plummeted to the beach.
All at once, like deafening firecrackers, explosions ripped across the sand, splintering, smashing, and overturning fishing boats.
Jubahi’s family found his body among the wreckage in a pool of his own blood. His head had been struck by one of the munitions while he slept. “There was a hole in his head with blood spilled underneath,” Jubahi’s father, Mohammed Omar Medarij, told The Intercept before bursting into tears.
The villagers recovered two empty shell casings and three parachutes, which Jubahi’s family kept as evidence and showed to The Intercept. “They took out my son and left these rags behind,” Medarij said, gesturing toward the parachutes.
It was not the first time the villagers had seen such weapons. In December 2015, Human Rights Watch confirmed that coalition warplanes dropped CBU-105 cluster bombs on al-Hayma, damaging multiple homes and seriously injuring at least two civilians.