Yemen’s Houthi rebels 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 the global energy supply.
Announcing the attacks, the Houthis also said they attacked military targets in the Saudi cities of Dammam, Asir and Jazan.
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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.
“One of the petroleum tank areas at the Ras Tanura Port in the Eastern Region, one of the largest oil ports in the world, was attacked this morning by a drone, coming from the sea,” the ministry said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.
It added that shrapnel from a ballistic missile fell near Aramco’s residential compound in Dhahran.
“Such acts of sabotage do not only target the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also the security and stability of energy supplies to the world, and therefore, the global economy,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement on state media.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group fired 14 drones and eight ballistic missiles across the border with the kingdom in a “wide operation in the heart of Saudi Arabia”.
The United States mission in Saudi Arabia advised US citizens to take precautions after reports of possible attacks and explosion in the area of Dhahran, Dammam and Khobar in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
The province is home to most of Saudi Aramco’s oil production and export facilities.
The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said that Saudi Arabia will take all necessary measures to protect itself, and to ensure the stability of energy supplies and maritime traffic.
The attacks on a petroleum tank farm at Ras Tanura port and on Aramco facilities in Dhahran were “cowardly terrorist attacks”, a defence ministry spokesman said in a statement on state news agency SPA.
The coalition said earlier on Sunday it intercepted 12 drones launched by the Houthis, including five that were fired towards the kingdom, and two ballistic missiles fired towards Jizan.
Separately, the coalition said it conducted air strikes on Houthi military targets in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and other regions and warned that “civilians and civilian objects in the Kingdom are a red line”.
It said the Houthis – who have been battling the coalition since it intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015 – had been emboldened after the new US administration revoked a terrorist designations on the group in February that had been imposed by former President Donald Trump.
The Houthis had interpreted their removal from the list “in a hostile way”, the coalition said, adding that it’s “victories” in the Yemeni region of Marib had also prompted the rebels to step up their attacks inside the kingdom.
In Sanaa, Al Jazeera’s Mohamed al-Attab said columns of smoke and fire could be seen over the capital after Saudi fighter jets bombed military compounds controlled by the Houthis.
“No casualties have been reported so far, but these attacks have spread horror and fear among civilians in the area,” he said.
The Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said coalition warplanes launched “a series of air raids” on the al-Nahda and Attan districts.
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 escalation comes as the United States and the United Nations increase diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire to pave the way for a resumption of UN-sponsored political talks to end the conflict.
US President Joe Biden has halted support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen’s war, which he called a “catastrophe” that “has to end”.
But he has also reiterated US support for Saudi Arabia in defending its territory.
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.