US spokesman warns 'Houthis attack, Yemenis suffer' after missile strike

Missile launches by Houthi rebels endanger peace talks and ceasefire efforts

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 03, 2017 Saudi border guards keep watch along the border with Yemen in the al-Khubah area in the southern Jizan province. A projectile attack sparked a fire at an oil terminal in southern Saudi Arabia, the country's energy ministry said on March 25, 2021, on the sixth anniversary of a Riyadh-led military intervention in Yemen. The ministry did not say who was behind the strike in Jizan province, but it comes as Yemen's Huthi rebels escalate attacks on the kingdom -- including its energy facilities -- despite Saudi Arabia's offer this week for a ceasefire.
 / AFP / Fayez Nureldine
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The US State Department, speaking after a strike on a Saudi oil facility in Jazan, said such attacks do a disservice to Yemenis.

The strike on Thursday night was blamed on Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia also intercepted another missile from the south on Friday.

The missile launches came not long after Saudi Arabia and the government in Yemen said they would agree to a ceasefire and come together in peace talks organised by the UN.

"The Houthis' actions are prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people and jeopardising peace efforts at a critical moment when the international community is increasingly united behind a ceasefire and a resolution of the conflict," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Attacks on energy facilities near the Saudi-Yemen border is a tactic often used by the Houthi rebels.

Arab Coalition spokesman Brig Gen Turki Al Malki called the attacks "cowardly". He also said such attacks affected the "nerve centre of the global economy".

Yemen has been embroiled in years of revolution, conflict and overlapping humanitarian crises of famine and droughts.

The Houthis removed the internationally recognised government in Sanaa in 2014. Riyadh became involved shortly after in a military response.

"The actions by the Houthis are a clear provocation meant to perpetuate the conflict," Mr Price said.

"This is the latest in a series of Houthi attempts to disrupt global energy supplies, and threatens civilian populations."

There are efforts being made to reach a peace agreement in Yemen. However, some see these attacks as undermining that work. Riyadh presented a comprehensive plan on ending the years-long conflict earlier this week.

The US State Department called for an end to hostilities and encouraged peace talks to go forward.

It also said Washington hoped those involved would co-ordinate with the US special envoy, Tim Lenderking, and the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, on the next steps.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Saeed on Thursday.

In addition, Mr Lenderking is making his third visit to the Middle East.

Mr Price's Friday statement echoed an earlier statement from Saudi Arabia.

"The attack on the petroleum distribution station in Jazan and the attempt to target civilians is a confirmation of the terrorist Houthi militia's rejection of the kingdom's initiative to end the Yemeni crisis, and an affirmation of the Iranian guardianship over the political and military decision of the militia," the Saudi Ministry of Defence said on Friday.