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Houthis target Aramco sites in Saudi Arabia using drones

This picture taken on November 24, 2020, shows a view of a damaged silo at the Saudi Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked at least six sites across Saudi Arabia late Saturday and early on Sunday, including some run by state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

The Iran-backed group targeted an Aramco fuel depot in Jazan in the southwest of the kingdom and a liquefied natural gas plant in the Red Sea city of Yanbu, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. The Houthis said on Twitter that they were responsible.

They used drones as well as ballistic and cruise missiles, according to SPA. Saudi forces said they intercepted a missile and shot down nine drones. Another attack targeted an Aramco oil products distribution station in Jeddah, causing a limited fire and was controlled, SPA reported later on Sunday.

No casualties were reported. The strikes didn’t impact Aramco’s operations, Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser said when commenting on the firm’s results for 2021.

Saudi’s energy ministry later said that a drone strike targeting the Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company caused “a temporary reduction” in the refinery’s production and “will be compensated for from the inventory.”

“We condemn the Houthi attacks over the last 48 hours against civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement Sunday. “The Houthis launch these terrorist attacks with enabling by Iran, which supplies them with missile and UAV components, training, and expertise.” Targets included water-treatment facilities as well as oil and natural gas infrastructure, he said.

The Houthis also targeted the city of Taif, a gasoline station in Khamis Mushait and a power station in Dhahran al-Janoub, a town near Jazan. In addition, they aimed at a desalination plant at Al Shaqeeq on the Red Sea.

The strikes came days after Persian Gulf states invited the Houthis to peace negotiations in the Saudi capital of Riyadh as part of a new attempt to end Yemen’s civil war. The talks were slated to run between March 29 and April 7. The Houthis have welcomed the proposal but said the talks must take place in a neutral country.

A coalition including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began a military campaign in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis after they took over the capital and dislodged the internationally recognized government. The war has devolved into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The Houthis have regularly attacked Saudi Arabia in the past two years, though their drone and missile strikes rarely cause many casualties. The group also targeted the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi in January and February.

Houthi forces struck the Aramco facility and other key targets in Jazan with ballistic and wing missiles called Quds 2, spokesman Yahya Saree said in a statement on the rebel-run Al-Masirah TV, adding the attacks hit their targets. The focused operations are aimed at breaking the blockade on Yemen, he said.

The UAE is lobbying the U.S. to help countries in the region bolster their missile defenses and provide more intelligence to foil Houthi attacks, Bloomberg reported this month.

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