An official from the Iran-backed Houthi group fighting in Yemen on Tuesday said a long-range missile fired at Saudi Arabian oil facilities a day earlier would someday be used against Israel.
Saudi Aramco said Tuesday that the strike by Yemeni rebels on its plant in Jeddah tore a hole in an oil tank, triggering an explosion and fire in another assault on the kingdom’s energy infrastructure.
The Houthi rebels said they struck the facility in the Red Sea city on Monday with a Quds-2 missile, as they step up attacks in retaliation for a five-year military campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
“With regard to the targeting of the city of Jiddah, we believe that this missile (of ours) is meant to target Eilat and not Jiddah, but since the Saudi aggressors continue their suffocating attacks against us in Yemen, we are forced to confront this aggression, in order to force Saudi Arabia to stop its attacks against Yemen, and to lift its siege on Yemen,” Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Mahbashi told the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV station, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“Otherwise, the development and testing of this missile will continue, until we manage to reach deep into Palestinian [territory], and target the Zionist entity of the blessed Palestinian land,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is stuck in a military quagmire in Yemen, which has been locked in conflict since Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened the following year to support the internationally recognized government, but the conflict that has left tens of thousands of people dead has shown no signs of abating.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the Jiddah attack, saying it contradicted the rebels’ claim that they were serious about ending the conflict.
“With Yemen at risk of famine, the Houthis must cease their aggression and work with the UN to achieve peace,” Raab wrote on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia has been targeted with dozens of ballistic missile and drone attacks since the start of last year.
Houthi missiles and drones have mostly targeted Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces along their shared border, many of which the kingdom claims to have successfully intercepted.
But the attack on Jiddah, which lies some 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the frontier, is an indication of the rebels’ advancing arsenal. The distance from Yemen to Eilat is some 2,000 kilometers.
The latest attack occurred as the United States deliberates tagging the rebels a “terrorist organization,” a move that has drawn concern from humanitarian agencies who say it could cripple aid delivery and tip the country into famine.
The Houthis have reacted angrily to the prospect, saying US President Donald Trump had no right to make the ruling after failing to win a second term.
However, his national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Monday that the US was “keeping all our options open.”
“Right now we encourage the Houthis to expel the Iranians, to stop attacking neighbors and stop attacking people within Yemen and engage in a good-faith peace process with the other stakeholders in Yemen,” he said.