Saudi Arabia blames Iran for ordering pipeline attack as coalition strikes Sanaa

The strikes follow seven Houthi drone strikes on the Kingdom's oil infrastructure

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 4, 2019, Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir  answers journalist during an European Union-Leagues Arab States ministerial meeting in Brussels.  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was "not involved" in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and blaming him would be crossing "a red line," Adel al-Jubeir said on February 8, 2019. / AFP / JOHN THYS
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Just hours after the Arab Coalition struck Houthi military targets in Sanaa, Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir directly blamed Iran for recent Houthi drone attacks on the kingdom's oil infrastructure.

Air strikes by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition struck nine military targets across the Houthi-rebel held Yemeni capital, in an apparent response to a Houthi drone attack on Saudi oil installations.

Mr Al Jubeir also said the Houthis are "an indivisible part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and subject to the IRGC's orders," a connection he said was confirmed by the strikes on Saudi Aramco infrastructure.

Residents said that Thursday's air strikes started early, hitting military sides belonging to the Houthi rebels who have been at war with the Yemeni government and Arab Coalition since 2015. Houthi-run television downplayed the strike count, saying there were only six.

The Arab Coalition, which includes the UAE and Saudi Arabia, launched an operation aimed at "neutralising the ability of the Houthi militia to carry out acts of aggression," Saudi-run Al Arabiya news reported, citing a coalition statement.

It urged civilians to avoid target areas and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Smoke billows following an air strike in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on May 16, 2019. Warplanes struck the rebel-held Yemeni capital two days after the insurgents claimed drone strikes that shut a key oil pipeline in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the rebels and witnesses said. One witness told AFP he heard a loud explosion in the heart of Sanaa. The rebels' Al-Masirah television blamed "aircraft of the (Saudi-led) aggression".
 / AFP / Mohammed HUWAIS

The strikes come two days after seven drones struck Saudi oil infrastructure in the kingdom, leading to the temporary closure of the strategic East-West pipeline. Saudi Arabia said Houthis were responsible for the attack and rebels are reported to have celebrated the strikes.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's Vice Minister of Defence and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's younger brother, also said on Thursday that Iranian orders were behind the Houthi strikes, the first direct accusation against the country in relation to the incident.

“The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region, and not to protect the people of Yemen as the Houthis falsely claim,” the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States said on Twitter.

The strikes on the Saudi Aramco pumping infrastructure show the Houthi rebels are an "Iranian tool", the minister said.

Prince Khalid also said the attacks harmed on-going peace efforts in Yemen. Earlier this week the Houthi rebels handed over the strategic port of Hodeidah to the United Nations, however, concerns have been raised over whether the Houthis have simply changed into coast guard uniforms.

On Wednesday evening, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said the Arab Coalition would "hit back hard" whenever the civilian population or infrastructure of a member was hit by the Iran-linked Yemeni rebels.

But, he urged restraint amid rising tensions with Iran, which he said was "a very brittle situation".

Four tankers off the UAE coast appear to have been sabotaged on Sunday night, but it is not clear if the incidents were connected. An investigation into the maritime attack is being carried out by Emirati officials and partners.

Countries around the world have expressed concern at the attacks, both of which target oil infrastructure.

Insurers were set to meet in London on Thursday to discuss the situation and the threat to shipping in the Gulf.

"This is prudent as capital providers would expect underwriters to review their exposure in the light of recent developments," Neil Roberts, head of marine underwriting at Lloyd's Market Association – which represents the interests of all underwriting businesses in London's Lloyd's market – said on Wednesday.