Yemen’s Houthi rebels have unleashed a barrage of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, targeting a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, water desalination plant, oil facility and power station, Saudi state-run media reported.
The attacks early on Sunday did not cause casualties, the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen said, but damaged civilian vehicles and homes in the area.
Later on Sunday, the military coalition said an aerial attack struck an oil facility in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, sparking a fire.
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The coalition said that firefighters were dealing with a “limited” fire that erupted in one of the tanks at a petroleum distribution centre. It said the fire at the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. facility caused no casualties.
The salvo marked the latest escalation in Houthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia as peace talks remain stalled. The conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Yehia Sarie, a spokesman for Iran-backed Houthi rebels, said the group had launched “a wide and large military operation into the depth of Saudi Arabia”, without immediately elaborating.
Attack on LNG plant thwarted
The military coalition said it thwarted an attack on an LNG plant at a petrochemicals complex in the Red Sea port city of Yanbu run by the Saudi Arabian Oil Co, better known as Aramco. It was not immediately clear if the attack had inflicted any damage on the plant.
Other aerial attacks targeted a power station in the country’s southwest, a desalination facility in Al-Shaqeeq on the Red Sea coast, an Aramco terminal in the southern border town of Jizan and a gas station in the southern city of Khamis Mushait, the coalition said.
The extent of the damage was unclear. The official Saudi Press Agency posted various photos of firetrucks dousing leaping flames with water hoses, as well as wrecked cars and craters in the ground allegedly left by the series of drone and ballistic missile attacks.
The Saudi-owned al-Hadath TV channel quoted the Saudi-led coalition later on Sunday as saying it destroyed a boat laden with explosives that belongs to the Iran-aligned group.
The destruction of the boat, off the Yemeni coastal city of Hodeidah, thwarted an imminent attack on shipping in the Red Sea, the TV channel said.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Houthis who control most of northern Yemen, including Hodeidah.
The incident comes after the Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council invited Yemen’s warring sides for talks in Riyadh aimed at ending the nearly eight-year war.
The Houthis have said they would participate only in discussions held in a neutral country and the priority should be lifting a coalition blockade on areas held by the group.
Peace talks have floundered since the Houthis have tried to capture oil-rich Marib, one of the last remaining strongholds of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government in the country’s north.
Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition in Yemen in support of the internationally recognised government, which has been engaged in a bloody conflict against the Houthis since 2015.
Worst humanitarian crisis
The war has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, directly or indirectly, and displaced millions, in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
On Wednesday, the UN voiced disappointment after a donors’ conference raised only $1.3bn, far short of the $4.27bn target.
Houthi rebels often target airports and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter. The Yemeni armed group has also carried out several attacks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year as it expanded attacks against the two oil-rich Gulf nations.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are leading members of the military coalition involved in the Yemen war after the Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, and subsequently much of the north.
The UAE withdrew troops from the country in 2019 but remains an active player.
The latest attack comes as Aramco prepares to announce its 2021 results on Sunday.
Global oil markets are in a state of disarray over the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the effect it will have on energy supplies.