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Yemen’s Houthis fire missiles, drones at Saudi oil facilities

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SANAA — Yemen’s Houthi forces fired drones and missiles at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry on Sunday, attacking a Saudi Aramco facility at Ras Tanura in an assault the kingdom said was aimed at the security and stability of global energy supply.

Announcing the attacks, the Houthis also said they attacked military targets in the Saudi cities of Dammam, Asir and Jazan.

The Saudi energy ministry said an oil storage yard at Ras Tanura, the site of an oil refinery and the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility, was attacked with a drone but there were no casualties or property loss.

It added that shrapnel from a ballistic missile fell near Aramco’s residential compound in Dhahran.

Saudi state media earlier said the Saudi-led military coalition battling the Houthis had intercepted 12 armed drones aimed at “civilian targets” without specifying a location in the kingdom as well as two ballistic missiles fired towards Jazan.

Two residents in Dhahran told Reuters they heard an explosion. The U.S. mission in Saudi Arabia issued an advisory, citing reports of possible missile attacks and explosions on Sunday evening in the tri-city area of Dhahran, Dammam and Khobar in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

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The Eastern Province is home to most of Aramco’s oil production and export facilities. In 2019, Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, was shaken by an unprecedented missile and drone attack on key oil facilities in the east of the kingdom which Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.

That attacks forced Saudi Arabia to temporarily shut down more than half of its crude output.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said on Sunday that the group had fired 14 drones and eight ballistic missiles in a “wide operation in the heart of Saudi Arabia.”

ESCALATION

The Houthis recently stepped up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia at a time when the United States and the United Nations are pushing for a ceasefire to revive stalled political negotiations to end the war.

Last Thursday, the Houthi movement said it fired a missile at an Aramco petroleum products distribution plant in the Red Sea city of Jeddah which the Houthis had attacked in November 2020, hitting a storage tank. Aramco and Saudi authorities have not commented about Thursday’s claim.

The military alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from power in the capital, Sanaa. The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Saudi-led coalition said on Sunday it conducted air strikes on Houthi military targets in Sanaa and other regions on Sunday and warned that “civilians and civilian objects in the Kingdom are a red line.”

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It said the Houthis had been emboldened after the new U.S. administration revoked a terrorist designations on the group in February, state media reported.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two Houthi military leaders following the increase in attacks on Saudi cities and intensified battles in Yemen’s Marib region. In Sanaa, a Reuters witness reported several air strikes. The Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said coalition warplanes bombed al-Nahda and Attan districts.

The war, which has been in a military stalemate for years, has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression. (Reporting by Gulf team, Marwa Rashad in London, Nayera Abdallah and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Yemen team; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Louise Heavens, Frances Kerry, William Maclean)

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