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Saudi Arabia confirms Yemeni drone, missile attacks on oil facilities

Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal (File photo by Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has confirmed that a Yemeni drone attack targeted a petroleum tank farm at Ras Tanura port and a ballistic missile targeted Saudi Aramco’s facilities in the city of Dhahran.

In a statement on Sunday, a spokesman for the Saudi Energy Ministry acknowledged that a drone coming from the sea hit one of the petroleum tank farms at the Ras Tanura Port – one of the largest oil shipping ports in the world, in the morning.

The spokesman also said a "ballistic missile’s shrapnel" fell near Saudi Aramco’s residential area in the city of Dhahran after it was intercepted.

None of the attacks resulted in any injury or loss of life or property, the spokesman added.

Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Malki claimed in a statement later on Sunday that both attacks were intercepted before reaching their targets.

“The attacking bomb-laden UAV that came via the sea was intercepted and destroyed prior to reaching its target. The ballistic missile that was launched to target Aramco facilities in Dhahran was intercepted and destroyed as well,” al-Malki said, state news agency SPA reported.

The oil market reacted to the news as details of the retaliatory attack trickled in. 

Brent crude futures surged above $70 a barrel on Monday for the first time in more than a year. While Brent jumped 2.65% to trade at $71.20, US crude futures also rose 2.56% to $67.78.

US urges citizens in Saudi Arabia to ‘stay alert’

The US Consulate General in Dhahran urged US citizens to review precautions to take in the event of an attack and "stay alert" in case of additional attacks.

The consulate general cited reports of possible missile attacks and explosions in the area of Dhahran, Dammam, and Khobar, saying “regional actors hostile to Saudi Arabia have conducted destructive and sometimes lethal attacks against a variety of targets.”

Spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces Brigadier General Yahya Saree said the Yemeni army launched eight ballistic missiles and 14 bomb-laden drones in a “wide operation in the heart of Saudi Arabia”.

Saree said the attacks hit Aramco facilities and military sites in Asir province and the cities of Dammam and Jizan. He also said the Yemeni army shot down a Saudi reconnaissance plane over Yemen’s Jawf Province.

The attacks are the most serious against Saudi oil facilities since a September 2019 operation against a key processing facility and two fields. That attack was claimed by the Ansarullah movement, while Riyadh and Washington put the blame on Iran.

The Sana’a government, which is run by the Ansarullah movement, says its attacks against Saudi targets are retaliatory and come in response to the continuous blockade and aggression on Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

“We promise the Saudi regime painful operations as long as it continues its aggression and blockade on our country,” said Saree, who termed the attacks as “The Sixth Deterrence Balance Operation”.

Sana’a: Criminalize Saudi war on Yemen

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, called on the international community to criminalize the continuation of the Saudi-led siege and aggression against Yemen.

“We call on the international community to condemn the airstrikes of the American, British, Saudi, and Emirati forces of the coalition and their allies,” al-Houthi wrote in a tweet on Sunday.

“We hold the aggressor states responsible for the crimes and the famine [in Yemen],” he added.

Saudi Arabia and some of its regional allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 with the goal of bringing the former Riyadh-friendly regime back to power. The US and some other Western countries have also been involved in the war.

Nearly six years later, however, Riyadh’s goal still remains as elusive as ever, with tens of thousands of people killed, much of Yemen’s infrastructure destroyed and horrifying outbreaks of cholera and hunger bordering on famine underway.

According to the UN, by mid-2020, Yemen had returned to alarming levels of food insecurity and acute malnutrition, with some 24 million Yemenis in need of some form of assistance, and nearly 20 million teetering on the brink of starvation. 

The United States has had a particularly big hand in the Yemen war from the beginning of the Saudi aggression. Back in 2018, then secretary of state Mike Pompeo shocked the world when he said the war coalition was “undertaking demonstrable actions” to reduce the risk of harm to civilians. He made the remarks only weeks after a Saudi strike hit a school bus and killed 40 children.

Sana’a rejects US call for unilateral end to war

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for Yemen had met with officials from the Ansarullah movement in February.

“The discussions, which have not been officially made public by either side, took place in the Omani capital Muscat on February 26 between US Yemen envoy Timothy Lenderking and the Houthis’ chief negotiator Mohammed Abdusalam,” Reuters reported.

A senior member of Ansarullah’s political bureau, said Sunday the meeting had not been held directly but through a third party and an intermediary.

“The atmosphere in the meeting was also not positive because the Americans wanted a unilateral end to the war, which we rejected,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti said in an interview with al-Mayadeen.

Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up its bombings as Yemeni forces are pushing ahead with an offensive to liberate the strategic Ma’rib province from Takfiri elements and militants loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

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