Satellite photos show Iran-backed Yemen rebels hit Saudi oil site again this week

In this satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC, damage is seen after an attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels targeting Saudi Aramco's North Jiddah Bulk Plant in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, March 21, 2022 (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
In this satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC, damage is seen after an attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels targeting Saudi Aramco's North Jiddah Bulk Plant in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, March 21, 2022 (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels this week struck the same oil storage tank in the Saudi Arabian city of Jiddah they had previously hit two years ago, satellite photos show.

Satellite photos by Planet Labs PBC, analyzed by The Associated Press, show the damage on Sunday to the North Jiddah Bulk Plant, which sits just southeast of the city’s international airport, a crucial hub for Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca.

That same storage tank — owned by the state oil behemoth Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco — was hit by what the Houthis described as a cruise missile in a November 2020 attack.

Sunday’s attack has renewed questions about the kingdom’s ability to defend itself from Houthi fire as a yearslong war in the Arab world’s poorest country rages on with no end in sight.

It also comes as Saudi Arabia issued an unusually stark warning that it is unable to guarantee its oil production won’t be affected by further attacks — which could push global energy prices even higher amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Both Saudi government officials and Aramco did not immediately respond to questions.

The Houthi attack on Sunday represents one its most-intense barrages of the war, which has seen the kingdom launch punishing airstrikes in Yemen that have been criticized internationally for killing civilians. Among the targets was a petrochemicals complex in Yanbu on the Red Sea coast, which Saudi officials said led to a disruption of production for the world’s biggest oil exporter.

Another target was the North Jiddah Bulk Plant, which stores diesel, gasoline and jet fuel for use in Jiddah, the kingdom’s second-largest city some 285 kilometers (177 miles) southeast of Yanbu on the coast. It accounts for over a quarter of all of Saudi Arabia’s supplies and also supplies fuel crucial to running a regional desalination plant.

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