Saudi Arabia says Yemen rebels target its energy facilities

AP , Sunday 20 Mar 2022

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

Attack on Saudi Arabia
In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, firefighters try to extinguish a blaze at an Aramco terminal in the southern border town of Jizan, Saudi Arabia, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. AP

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 has laid waste to much of Yemen since 2015 rages on.

The attacks also came as Saudi Arabia's state-backed oil giant Aramco announced that its profits rose 124% in 2021 to $110 billion, a big jump amid renewed anxieties about global supply shortages, soaring oil prices and a recovery in fuel demand from the coronavirus pandemic.

Aramco, also known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., released its earnings report on the heels of weeks of intense volatility in energy markets triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Punitive sanctions on Russia, among the world's largest exporters of crude and petroleum products, have unleashed turmoil in an already-tight energy market.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have so far resisted Western appeals to increase oil production to offset the loss of Russian oil as gasoline prices skyrocket.

The international oil benchmark Brent crude hovered over $107 on Sunday after nearly touching a peak of $140 earlier this month.

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.``

The military coalition said it thwarted an attack on a liquified gas plant at a petrochemicals complex in the Red Sea port of Yanbu run by Aramco. It wasn't immediately clear if the attack had inflicted any damage on the plant.

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 was 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 series of drone and ballistic missile strikes.

The barrage comes after the Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council 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 Shia Houthis seized the country's capital, Sanaa, and much of the north. Saudi Arabia, fearing an Iranian presence on its border, and other Arab states launched a devastating air campaign to oust the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government.

The conflict in Yemen has settled into a bloody stalemate, with Saudi Arabia and its allies struggling to turn the tide.

Repeated Houthi attacks meanwhile have targeted the kingdom's key oil refineries and export terminals. Although rarely causing substantial damage, the strikes have rattled world energy markets and raised the risk of disruptions to Saudi output.

The ongoing war has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with a recent U.N. report estimating that hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced as a result of the conflict.

As part of its yearly report, Aramco said it has stuck to its promise of paying quarterly dividends of $18.75 billion _ $75 billion a year _ due to commitments the company made to shareholders in the run-up to its initial public offering. Nearly all of the dividend money goes to the Saudi government, which owns more than 98% of the company.

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