Houthis say they attacked Aramco, Patriot targets in Saudi Arabia

Yemeni group claims it attacked Aramco oil facility and Patriot anti-missile system, but no confirmation from Riyadh.

The Iran-aligned rebels have struck Aramco facilities in the past, underscoring the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s expensive and strategically vital oil infrastructure [File: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed they used drones and missiles to attack oil installation and military targets in the southern Saudi city of Jazan, with a site belonging to state oil giant Aramco catching fire in the attack on Thursday.

A Houthi spokesman in the northern capital of Sanaa said that 11 missiles and drones had targeted facilities belonging to the Saudi oil giant Aramco.

Patriot anti-missile batteries and other “sensitive facilities” were also targeted by the Houthi in Jizan, a rebel military spokesman said according to the Houthis’ Al-Masirah television.

There was no confirmation by Saudi Arabia of a fire or its Patriot anti-missile structure getting hit.

However, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said some debris from intercepting the four drones and five ballistic missiles fired overnight and in the early morning had landed within the grounds of Jazan University and started a limited fire that was brought under control.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition said in a statement that no one was killed. There was no immediate report of injuries.

The statement blamed the Houthis for the attack, saying the missiles and drones specifically targeted civilian areas and had been launched from the rebel stronghold of Saada in Yemen, said coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki.

Maliki condemned the escalating Houthi air campaign against “civilian targets”, warning that these “hostile acts constitute war crimes”.

Vulnerable facility

The Iran-aligned rebels have struck Aramco facilities several times in the past, underscoring the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s expensive and strategically vital oil infrastructure.

Thursday’s incident comes days after the Houthis claimed to have launched drone attacks against Saudi Arabia’s Aramco’s facilities on Monday.

Last November, the rebels hit an Aramco plant in Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile, tearing a hole in an oil tank and triggering an explosion and fire, the company said.

The attacks also come amid a surge in fighting between the rebels and forces loyal to the Riyadh-backed government in Yemen. Last week, at least 70 pro-government and Houthi fighters were killed in fierce fighting for Yemen’s strategic northern city of Marib.

The Houthis have been trying to seize Marib, the capital of an oil-rich region and the Saudi Arabia-backed government’s last significant pocket of territory in the north since February, as the United States and the United Nations have launched diplomatic efforts to end the war.

Six-year war

The six-year-long conflict in Yemen was sparked by the Houthis takeover of the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, which forced the internationally recognised government to flee the city.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened militarily in support of the internationally recognised government removed by the Houthis.

The UN humanitarian office says the war has caused an estimated 233,000 deaths, including 131,000 from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure.

Riyadh has faced criticism for its bombing campaign that has created what the UN said as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Aid groups report more than 20 million people in the impoverished Arab nation are experiencing food insecurity and half of them are at risk of famine.

Rights groups have criticised all sides in the conflict, but note that Saudi Arabia-led air attacks have often been disproportionate and killed thousands of civilians.

US President Joe Biden ended support to Saudi Arabia’s war and launched a diplomatic offensive to end the devastating war that has rendered about 80 percent of Yemen’s population at the mercy of foreign aid.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies