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PoliticsMiddle East

Houthi rebels launch attacks on Saudi oil facilities

March 26, 2021

Saudi officials said that eight drones were deployed in the attack. Houthi forces said they also targeted sites owned by Saudi Aramco, and military structures.

Storage tanks at an Aramco oil facility in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia
Storage tanks at an Aramco oil facility in Jiddah, Saudi ArabiaImage: Amr Nabil/AP Photo/picture alliance

A fuel tank at an oil facility in Saudi Arabia caught fire after being struck by a projectile, the government said on Friday, in an attack suspected to be launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The attack took place on the sixth anniversary of Saudi Arabia's entry into Yemen's civil war. The projectiles in Jizan in southwest Saudi Arabia, near the border with Yemen, hailed from what Saudi defense officials described as a slew of eight bomb-carrying drones launched by the rebels.

In a televised speech, Houthi forces took responsibility for the attacks, which they said targeted facilities owned by state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, and military sites.

The Iran-aligned group said they launched attacks against King Abdelaziz military base in Dammam and military sites in Najran and Asir. The group also said they targeted Aramco facilities in Ras al-Tanura, Rabigh, Yanbu and Jizan, using 18 drones and eight ballistic missiles.

'Ready to carry out more severe operations'

"The operation has successfully fulfilled its objectives,'' said Houthi military spokesman Yehia Sarie. "We affirm that we are ready to carry out a more severe and more cruel military operation in the coming period."

Saudi Arabia has faced an increasing number of such attacks, even since its recent offer to cease hostilities and enter mediation with the Houthis. 

The attack in Jizan struck a distribution facility just after 9 p.m. (18:00 UTC) on Thursday, the Saudi Energy Ministry said in a statement.

"The attack resulted in a fire in one of the terminal's tanks," the statement said. "The attack left no casualties."

Jizan, a city around 970 kilometers (600 miles) southwest of Riyadh, is home to a new refinery and port facilities for the energy company, Saudi Arabian Oil Co. The refinery, with a capacity of 400,000 barrels a day, sent its first shipment abroad last year.

War continues, six years on

Benchmark Brent crude rose to over $62 (€53) in early trading on Friday after the attack. Saudi Arabia entered Yemen's war in 2015, as the Houthis threatened to take Yemen's port city of Aden. The Saudis promised that the offensive would quickly be over, but the fighting has continued, six years on. The war has killed around 130,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project.

Such attacks on Saudi oil sites are not new. Most notably in September of 2019, the Houthis took responsibility for a drone attack on Saudi Aramco's oil processing facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. The attack spurred international condemnation and shook global oil prices, as it temporarily reduced Saudi Arabia's oil production by millions of barrels a day. Several countries said Iran was behind the attack, with Tehran seen as key foreign backers for the predominately Shia Muslim Houthis, but Iran has denied any involvement.

lc/msh (AP, Reuters)