Houthis unleash barrage of drone, missile strikes on Saudi Arabia

Published March 21, 2022
A DAMAGED car is seen at an Aramco terminal after the Houthi attacks.—AP
A DAMAGED car is seen at an Aramco terminal after the Houthi attacks.—AP

DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthi rebels unleashed a barrage of drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia early Sunday that targeted a liquefied natural gas plant, water desalination plant, oil facility and power station, Saudi state-run media reported.

The attacks did not cause casualties, the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen said, but damaged civilian vehicles and homes in the area. The salvo marked the latest escalation in Houthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia as peace talks remain stalled and the conflict that over seven years has laid waste to much of Yemen rages on.

Top crude exporter Saudi Arabia announced a “temporary reduction” in oil output at a facility run by energy giant Aramco on Sunday following the cross-border attacks which came as state-backed Aramco announced that its profits surged 124 per cent in 2021 to $110 billion, a big jump fueled by renewed anxieties about global supply shortages, soaring oil prices and a recovery in fuel demand from the pandemic.

Yehia Sarie, a spokesman for Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, said the group had launched a wide and large military operation into the depth of Saudi Arabia, without immediately elaborating.

The Saudi-led military coalition said it thwarted an attack on a liquefied gas plant at a petrochemicals complex in the Red Sea port of Yanbu run by Aramco.

Other aerial strikes targeted a power station in the country’s southwest, a desalination facility in Al-Shaqeeq on the Red Sea coast, an Aramco terminal in the southern border town of Jizan and a gas station in the southern city of Khamis Mushait, the coalition said.

The extent of damage on Saudi infrastructure and energy facilities remained unclear. The official Saudi Press Agency posted various photos of firetrucks dousing leaping flames with water hoses, as well as wrecked cars and craters in the ground allegedly left by the drone and ballistic missile strikes.

The barrage comes days after the Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council said it invited Yemen’s warring sides for talks in Riyadh aimed at ending the war, an offer dismissed out of hand by the Houthis, who demanded that negotiations take place in a neutral country.

Peace talks have floundered since the Houthis have tried to capture oil-rich Marib, one of the last remaining strongholds of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government in the country’s north.

Yemen’s brutal war erupted in 2015, after the Iran-backed Houthis seized the country’s capital, Sanaa, and much of the north. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states launched a devastating air campaign to oust the Houthi threat and restore the internationally recognised government.

But as the conflict now grinds into its eight year, the violence has only intensified. The war has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and largely settled into a stalemate, with Saudi Arabia and its allies struggling to turn the tide. Coalition airstrikes have decimated infrastructure and struck civilian targets in Yemen like hospitals and wedding parties, drawing widespread international criticism.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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