RIYADH: Yemen’s Houthi militia were condemned outright for an attack on a Saudi oil facility in Jeddah on Friday, with the United States accusing Iran of enabling the attack by supplying the group with weapons against international law.
“The Houthis’ unprovoked attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil storage facilities in Jeddah as well as the attacks on civilian facilities in Jizan, Najran and Dhahran are acts of terrorism aimed at prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people,” it said. Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser. .
He accused Iran of facilitating the group’s actions by supplying weapons, which is against UN rules.
“Today’s attacks, like the attacks on water treatment plants and energy infrastructure on March 19 and 20, were clearly permitted by Iran in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. banning the import of weapons into Yemen,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will work with the Kingdom to strengthen defenses “while seeking to advance a lasting end to conflict, improve lives, and create space for Yemenis to collectively determine their own future”.
“At a time when the parties must focus on de-escalation and bringing vital relief to the Yemeni people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis continue their destructive behavior and reckless terrorist attacks against civilian infrastructure.
The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said the fire at two tanks at the oil facility in northern Jeddah had been brought under control and there were no casualties.
On Saturday morning, the coalition shot down two drones over Yemeni territory that were heading towards the Kingdom. He said the launch site was an oil facility in Hodeidah, a city on the Red Sea coast. He also said he led a strike in Sanaa.
Plumes of black smoke could be seen in Jeddah on Friday after the Houthis attacked, serving as a reminder of the Iran-backed group’s intent to destabilize international energy security. The militia, which seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and continues to hold large parts of Yemen, has carried out regular attacks on civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom.
The Saudi-led coalition, which supports the internationally recognized Yemeni government against the Houthis, has intercepted many drones and missiles in the past.
An attack in Jeddah on March 19 caused a fire at an Aramco distribution center. A day later, the coalition destroyed an explosive-laden boat near Hodeidah, thwarting an imminent attack on shipping on the vital international shipping route.
Previous attacks have also targeted airports in the Kingdom, causing harm to civilians.
In February, 12 civilians were injured in a drone attack targeting Abha airport. In October, ten people were injured at King Abdulaziz Airport in the southern city of Jazan, and 16 others were injured by falling shrapnel following an attack at the same airport last month.
The Houthi militia have stepped up attacks on Saudi energy facilities in recent weeks as Iran seeks to revive a nuclear deal that would allow it to resume selling oil amid rising international energy demand following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry has reiterated that it cannot take responsibility for any oil shortages in world markets, given the continued attacks on its facilities. The ministry said the international community must be aware of Iran’s role in supporting the Houthis to target oil and gas production sites.
In a letter to the UN Security Council on Friday, Saudi Arabia said it reserves the right to defend itself against Houthi aggression.
Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, tweeted: “Iranian-backed terrorist Houthis continue to attack our civilians, infrastructure and energy facilities with Iranian-made missiles and drones with impunity. . The international community must act against this aggression which targets innocent civilians and the world’s energy supply.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi condemned the attack on the Aramco facility during a call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. El-Sissi said that Egypt stood in solidarity with the Kingdom to face the hostilities.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited the Kingdom last week, tweeted: “I fully condemn the latest Houthi attack on critical sites in Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah. These strikes put civilian lives at risk and must stop. His Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, called the “heinous” attack a continuation of recent terrorist acts by the Houthis and urged an “immediate cessation of violence”.
The UAE, which has also faced Houthi militia attacks in the past, condemns Friday’s attack and called on the international community to oppose repeated acts of aggression, calling for support for the work of the coalition against the group.
France, which condemned the group’s attack in the “strongest terms”, said the acts, which threaten Saudi Arabia’s security and the stability of the region, must end, urging the Houthis to s engage constructively in the Yemeni peace initiative within the framework of the UN.
Bahrain said it supports all measures that Saudi Arabia “deems necessary to maintain its security and stability against such deliberate and systematic attacks which are inconsistent with international humanitarian law”.
Meanwhile, Kuwait condemned the attack, which it called a “cowardly terrorist attack” that affects not only Saudi Arabia’s security and regional stability, but also the world’s energy supply.
Sudan said the Houthi attack represented a dangerous escalation in the region and said it supports the Kingdom against anything that endangers its security.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the attack posed a serious threat to security in the region and global energy supplies. He urged the international community to take a stronger stance against the terror of the Houthis and against their continued violation of humanitarian laws.
Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, head of the Muslim World League, said the organization stood in solidarity with the Kingdom to protect civilians on its land.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions imposed on Moscow have pushed up crude prices. The war in Ukraine, which entered its second month this week, saw the Kremlin see reduced interest in its gas and oil as customers sought to avoid falling under international sanctions against Russia.
The Houthis’ main backer, Iran, aims to resuscitate a nuclear deal with world powers that was scrapped by former US President Donald Trump.
US President Joe Biden has pledged to renew the deal, angering regional allies who believe it rewards Iran, which backs the Houthis with weapons, for its destabilizing activities in the Middle East.
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In February 2021, Washington rescinded Trump’s designation of the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, but last month the UN Security Council labeled the group a terrorist.
There are also growing concerns among US regional allies that the United States may remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its blacklist of terrorist organizations under the nuclear deal.
The Revolutionary Guards control a business empire in Iran, as well as military and intelligence forces responsible for terrorist attacks around the world.
“Attempting to delist the IRGC as a terrorist organization is an insult to their victims and would ignore documented reality backed by unequivocal evidence,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement. communicated.
Talks on the nuclear deal, however, have now stalled after Russia wanted a deal allowing Iran to be exempted from international sanctions against Moscow. The US said the two issues were unrelated.
A finalized deal would once again allow Iran to freely sell its oil on international markets, eager for more supplies.
The country could have as much as 65 million to 80 million barrels of oil on stationary tankers, Bloomberg reported, citing data from intelligence solutions provider Kpler.
Saudi Arabia is hosting the F1 Grand Prix this weekend in Jeddah. Racing fans could see a plume of black smoke from the attack in the distance during afternoon practice.
“I smell burnt – is this my car?” world champion Max Verstappen said on his team radio, as he appeared to be one of the first riders to notice the fumes in the air.
Despite the drama on day one, organizers said the race would go ahead as planned: “We are aware of the attack on Aramco’s distribution station in Jeddah in the early afternoon and are keeping in touch. directly with the Saudi authorities,” promoter Saudi Motorsport Company said. said in a statement.
“The race weekend program will continue as planned. The safety and security of all of our guests continues to be our top priority and we look forward to welcoming fans for a top weekend of racing and entertainment. of range.
This is the second time the Kingdom has hosted the event in the Red Sea city. The December 5, 2021 race was won by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton after a dramatic stop-start contest with Dutchman Verstappen, who would later become world champion at the final race of the season, in Abu Dhabi.