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Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claim missile hit Saudi oil facility

Houthi military spokesman says forces fired a new Quds-2 cruise missile; rebels claimed they hit the same plant in Jeddah last November in attack that sparked a fire

Barbed wire fence surround the North Jeddah bulk plant, an Aramco oil facility, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 4, 2021 (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Barbed wire fence surround the North Jeddah bulk plant, an Aramco oil facility, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 4, 2021 (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they attacked a Saudi oil facility in the port city of Jeddah on Thursday, the latest in a series of cross-border missile and drone strikes the group has claimed against the kingdom amid the grinding war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned media did not immediately acknowledge any incident in Jeddah.

Brig. Gen. Yehia Sarie, a Houthi spokesman, tweeted that the rebels fired a new Quds-2 cruise missile at the facility. He posted a satellite image online that matched Aramco’s North Jeddah Bulk Plant, where oil products are stored in tanks. The rebels claimed they hit the same facility last November, an attack the Saudi-led coalition later admitted had sparked a fire at the plant.

The plant, which serves as a temporary storage facility for gasoline, diesel and other petrochemicals before distribution, sits just southeast of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, a major airfield that handles Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca. Flights coming into the airport diverted or otherwise flew in circles early Thursday morning without explanation, according to tracking data from website FlightRadar24.com.

This photo from September 15, 2019, shows storage tanks at the North Jiddah bulk plant, an Aramco oil facility, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

An Associated Press journalist at the scene did not see any smoke immediately rising from the installation Thursday morning.

The US Consulate in Jeddah issued a warning to Americans citing the attack on the Aramco facility, among other reported drone strikes on the kingdom’s south. It said it wasn’t aware of any casualties and urged Americans to “review immediate precautions to take in the event of an attack.”

Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s oil giant that now has a sliver of its worth traded publicly on the stock market, did not respond to a request for comment. Its stock traded slightly up Thursday on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange as the international crude benchmark, Brent, traded at more than $64 a barrel.

The rebels’ latest claim comes after the United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two Houthi commanders, blaming them for civilian deaths and denouncing their ties with Iran.

Houthi rebels ride on a vehicle during a funeral procession for Houthi fighters who were killed in recent fighting with forces of Yemen’s Saudi-backed internationally recognized government, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Since 2015, the Houthis battling the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen have targeted international airports, along with military installations and critical oil infrastructure, within Saudi Arabia. In recent weeks the group has stepped up its attacks, repeatedly crashing drones and missiles into the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries.

The Saudi-led coalition announced overnight that its air forces had intercepted two explosives-laden drones launched toward Khamis Mushait, a southwestern city home to the King Khalid Air Base. The Houthis also fired a ballistic missile toward the southern Saudi province of Jizan later Thursday, the coalition said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Nearly six years ago, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen after the rebels seized the country’s capital, Sanaa. The war has settled into a bloody stalemate, with Saudi Arabia facing international criticism for its airstrikes killing civilians.

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