Yemen’s Houthis said they launched attacks on Saudi energy facilities on Friday (March 25) and the Saudi-led coalition said oil giant Aramco’s petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah was hit, causing a fire in two storage tanks but no casualties.
A huge plume of black smoke could be seen rising over the Red Sea city where the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is taking place this weekend, an eyewitness said.
The coalition statement on state media said the fire had been brought under control. Flames could still be seen in live footage aired by Saudi-owned Ekhbariya television channel.
There was no immediate comment from Aramco or the energy ministry when contacted by Reuters.
The Iran-aligned Houthis, who are battling the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, have intensified attacks on energy facilities in the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter. This week, Riyadh said it would not bear responsibility for any global oil supply disruptions resulting from such attacks.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group launched missiles on Friday at Aramco’s facilities in Jeddah and drones at the Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries, and that it had also targeted “vital facilities” in the capital Riyadh.
Saudi state media earlier said the coalition had foiled a string of Houthi drone and rocket attacks. Saudi air defences also destroyed a ballistic missile launched towards Jazan, which caused a “limited” fire at an electricity distribution plant.
The Houthi escalation comes as the United Nations special envoy tries to secure a temporary truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that starts in April, and ahead of Riyadh hosting Yemeni parties for consultations later this month.
Last weekend a Houthi assault on the kingdom caused a temporary drop in output at a refinery and a fire at a petroleum products distribution terminal. On March 11, the group targeted a refinery in Riyadh, causing a small fire.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.
The conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.