Yemeni Rebels Claim Drone Strikes On Saudi Oil Plants

 

Drone attacks sparked fires at two Saudi Aramco oil facilities on Saturday, the interior ministry said, the latest such assault claimed by Yemeni rebels as the energy giant prepares for a much-anticipated stock listing.

Huge palls of smoke rose into the sky after the pre-dawn attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais, two major Aramco facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, which follow a spike in regional tensions with Iran.

The attacks highlight how the increasingly advanced weaponry of the Iran-linked Huthi rebels — from ballistic missiles to unmanned drones — poses a serious threat to oil installations in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter.

“At 4:00 am (0100 GMT) the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“The two fires have been controlled.”

The statement added that an investigation had been launched after the attack in the kingdom’s Eastern Province, but did not specify the source of the drones.

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It also did not say if there were any casualties or whether operations at the two facilities had been affected.

The full extent of the damage was not immediately clear as reporters were not allowed near the plants where Saudi authorities appeared to have beefed up security.

In recent months, the Huthi rebels have carried out a spate of cross-border missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi air bases and other facilities in what they say is retaliation for a long-running Saudi-led bombing campaign on rebel-held areas in Yemen.

The rebels launched “a large-scale operation involving 10 drones that targeted refineries in Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia”, the group’s Al-Masirah television reported.

Last month, an attack claimed by Yemen’s Huthi rebels sparked a fire at Aramco’s Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility — close to the Emirati border — but no casualties were reported by the company.

Rebel drones also targeted two oil pumping stations on Saudi Arabia’s key east-west pipeline in May, shutting it down for several days.

– Rebel threat –
The growing attacks underscore how Saudi infrastructure, including oil installations, are increasingly vulnerable to rebel attacks four years after a Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention in Yemen.

The Abqaiq facility, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters, is home to the company’s largest oil processing plant. It has been targeted by militants in the past.

In an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda in February 2006, suicide bombers with explosive-laden vehicles attempted to penetrate the processing plant, killing two security guards.

The two bombers also died in the attack, which failed to breach the compound, authorities reported at the time.

In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced a man to death for links to the 2006 attack. Two other Saudis were jailed for 33 and 27 years respectively, state media reported.

Khurais, 250 kilometres from Dhahran, hosts a major Aramco oil field.

Tensions in the Gulf have soared since May, with US President Donald Trump calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after it downed a US drone.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have also blamed Iran for multiple attacks on tankers in the Gulf.

The latest attacks come as Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter, accelerates preparations for a much-anticipated initial public offering of Aramco.

The mammoth IPO forms the cornerstone of a reform programme envisaged by the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a son of King Salman, to wean the Saudi economy off its reliance on oil.

Aramco is ready for a two-stage stock market debut including an international listing “very soon”, its CEO Amin Nasser told reporters on Tuesday.

Dozens Of Yemeni Rebels Killed In Red Sea Port City – Medics

 

Dozens of Yemeni rebels have been killed in battles and air strikes in Hodeida, medics said Sunday, as pro-government forces advanced in the insurgent-held Red Sea port city.

The bloodshed comes despite growing international pressure to end a years-long conflict that has left thousands dead.

Fifty-three Huthi rebels were killed and dozens were injured over the past 24 hours, medical sources in Hodeida told AFP.

Clashes intensified in the city and centred around its university on Saturday and Sunday morning, a pro-government military official said.

Huthi media reported air strikes in Hodeida on Sunday but did not give a fighter casualty toll.

Military officials said Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out dozens of air strikes to support pro-government forces in the fighting which began on Thursday evening.

Thirteen pro-government troops were killed, medical sources in Aden and Mokha — where the fighters were transported – told AFP.

The clashes erupted just hours after the government said Thursday it was ready to restart peace talks with the Iran-backed Huthis.

The offer followed a surprise call by the United States for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes by the coalition.

Hodeida port is the entry point for more than 70 per cent of imports into the impoverished country, which is teetering on the edge of famine.

‘Shamefully slow to act’

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), appealed for an immediate ceasefire.

“As an international community we have been shamefully slow to act to end the crisis in Yemen,” she said in a statement during a trip to South Korea.

“We have watched the situation deteriorate to the point that Yemen is now on the brink of man-made famine, and facing the worst cholera epidemic in the world in decades,” Jolie added.

“The only way to enable refugees to return home, and to bring down the overall numbers worldwide, is to end conflicts themselves.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday had called for a halt to violence to pull Yemen back from the “precipice”.

After UN-backed peace talks collapsed in September, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Hodeida.

Yemeni government officials said Tuesday that the coalition had sent more than 10,000 new troops towards the battleground city.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the war in 2015 to bolster Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi after the rebels took over the capital Sanaa and drove the government further south to Aden.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10,000 people have since been killed.

Some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

Saudi To Probe Deadly Air Strikes On Yemen Funeral House

Yemen Blast, Saudi Arabia, US, Houthi Rebels
Since 2014, thousands have been killed in the conflict between the Houthi Rebels and the Saudi led coalition

The coalition fighting Yemeni rebels led by Saudi Arabia says it will investigate how more than 140 people died in air strikes at a funeral in Sanaa, the country’s capital.

The investigation as announced by Saudi authorities will start immediately and would involve American forensic experts.

Earlier, the Saudi Arabian government debunked the allegations made by the rebel Houthi-run government that the coalition was responsible for the deaths following its air strikes.

The air strikes targeted the funeral of the father of country’s Minister for Interior, Galal al-Rawishan.

In a statement released by the Saudi-led coalition, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team in Yemen and experts from the United States will lead the investigations.

It added that though the situation is regrettable, its troops have been instructed not to target civilian populations.

Meanwhile, the United States is set to carry out its own independent investigation into the air strikes.

The spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, Ned Price said the collaboration of the US with Saudi Arabia over investigations is “not a blank cheque”.

Allegations of Genocide

The spokesman of the Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdul-Salam said an attack of such magnitude amounts to “genocide”.yemen bomb expolsionjpg

Mr Abdul-Salam also revealed the aid workers who were first responders at the scene of the air strikes were “shocked and outraged”.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, condemned Saturday’s strikes on the funeral as a “horrific attack”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that it had prepared 300 body bags, adding that there were a lot of people in the building before the strikes.

Thousands of people, especially civilians, have been killed in clashes since 2014 when the Saudi-led coalition gave its backing to the internationally-recognized government of Yemen.