In a statement on Friday, Yemen’s Houthis claimed responsibility for strikes on Saudi energy installations. The Saudi-led coalition said an attack on Aramco’s petroleum products distribution facility in Jeddah resulted in a fire in two storage tanks but no injuries.
As the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix takes place this weekend in Jeddah, a massive plume of black smoke could be seen rising above the city on the Red Sea, according to an eyewitness who saw it.
Increasing assaults on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure have been carried out by the Houthis, who are allied with Iran. The strikes come ahead of a short ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
However, the coalition, which has frequently said that it is showing self-restraint in the face of the assaults, started a military action in Yemen early on Saturday, claiming it was necessary to secure global oil supplies and supply routes.
According to a coalition statement broadcast on state television on Friday, the fire had been brought under control. In live video broadcast by the Saudi-owned Ekhbariya television station, flames could still be seen licking the ground.
According to state news agency SPA, quoting an official in the Saudi energy ministry, the kingdom strongly denounced the “sabotage attempts” and reiterated that the country would not be held liable for any worldwide oil supply delays as a consequence of such actions.
Specifically, the ministry accused Iran of continuing to provide the Houthis with sophisticated drones and ballistic missiles, noting that the strikes “would have a negative effect on the Kingdom’s production capacity and on the Kingdom’s ability to meet its responsibilities to global markets.” Teheran maintains that the Houthis are not armed.
The coalition claimed the attacks on Saturday were directed at “sources of danger” in the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa and the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, according to a statement.
The assaults occurred at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which was being held in Jeddah at the time. According to a witness who spoke to Reuters, the thick black smoke could be seen from the racing course.
According to a person acquainted with the situation, Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali informed drivers and team principals that the Grand Prix will go place as scheduled on Sunday.
A spokesperson for the Houthi military claimed the group had fired missiles and drones against Aramco sites in Jeddah and the Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries on Friday. He added that the organisation had also attacked “important infrastructure” in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
In a previous report, Saudi official media claimed that the coalition had prevented a succession of Houthi drone and missile strikes. A ballistic missile fired against Jizan was also intercepted and destroyed by Saudi air defences, which caused a “small” fire at an electrical distribution facility.
The Houthi escalation comes as the United Nations special envoy seeks to broker a temporary ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in April, and as Riyadh prepares to welcome Yemeni parties for negotiations later this month in Saudi Arabia.
In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the assaults on Saudi Arabia, and said that the United States will continue to help with Riyadh to enhance its defences while working for a lasting settlement of the ongoing civil war on the Yemeni coast.
While the parties should be concentrating on de-escalation and providing life-saving assistance to the Yemeni people in advance of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis have continued their destructive behaviour and irresponsible terrorist assaults on civilian facilities, according to Blinken. ”
Following a Houthi attack on the monarchy this weekend, a refinery saw a brief decline in production, and a fire broke out at a petroleum products distribution station. On March 11, the organisation launched an attack on a refinery near Riyadh, resulting in a minor fire.
During the late 2014 Houthi uprising in Yemen, the Saudi-backed government was forced from the capital, Sanaa, prompting the coalition to act.
Tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the conflict, which is commonly seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Yemen has been driven to the verge of starvation.