Houthi Drones Rain Down on Saudi Border Cities; Red Sea Oil Terminal Catches Fire

A fuel tanker at an oil terminal on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea was set ablaze on Friday in an apparent attack by the Houthi rebels of Yemen. The Houthi rebels have launched several attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities in the recent years.

Saudi Arabia's petroleum ministry confirmed the incident. "The kingdom condemns this cowardly attack directed against vital installations, which does not target the kingdom only, but also targets the security of petroleum exports, the stability of energy supplies to the world, and the freedom of global trade," a statement issued by the ministry said.

Jeddah port
Jeddah Port - file photo Wikimedia Commons

UAE Blames Houthi Rebels

It has been reported that several Houthi drones targeted the Saudi oil cities close to the border with Yemen. The missile from the drone hit an oil terminal in Jizan, a port on the Red Sea north of the Saudi-Yemen border. The tanker caught fire in the attack but no casualties were reported, the ministry said. Unverified videos that circulated online shewed tanker on fire.

The large oil facility in Jizan in southern Saudi Arabia was hit by Yemeni Houthi forces in missile and drone attacks in July 2020 as well.

The Saudi officials did not say the Houthi rebels were behind the attack, but a statement issued by the UAE attributed the attack to the Iran-backed militia. Abu Dhabi condemned the attack, saying it was an act of terrorism.

GCC Condemns Attack

Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also blamed the Houthis for the attack. "Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dr. Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf condemned on Thursday the terrorist Houthi militia's launching of bomb-laden UAVs to target civilians and civilian objects in the Southern Region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the GCC statement said.

Importantly, the latest attack came on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the offensive against the Houthi militia, which was launched jointly by Saudi Arabia and the United Arb Emirates (UAE).

In December last year, a Saudi Arabian oil tanker off the coast of Jeddah was attacked by the Houthi rebels. The ministry said the oil tanker, which belonged to shipping company Hafnia, was hit by "an external source.'

The vessel had loaded about 60,000 tonnes of gasoline, shipping data on Refinitiv showed. The tanker, which loaded up at Yanbu port earlier this month was 84-percent full.

In November 2020, a mine attack blamed on Yemen's Houthi rebels had damaged an oil tanker off Red Sea port city.

Tensions on Rise Since 2019

In June 2019, Middle East tensions had flared up after two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Saudi Arabia had squarely blamed rival Iran for the attacks. The incident had come a month after four other tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Footage released by the US showed what appeared to be Iranian militia approaching in a boat and removing an unexploded mine off the hull of one of the ships that were attacked. However, Iran had denied any involvement.

More recently, earlier this month the Houthi rebels launched a missile attack against a Saudi Arabian oil facility in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said on Twitter that the attack against Aramco was launched at dawn and that the militia used winged missile to strike the target.