Saudi Arabia foils Houthi rebel attack on oil facility in Jizan

Attack using drone boats started a fire near offloading platform but caused no major damage, official says

A Saudi border guard watches as he stands in a boat off the coast of the Red Sea on Saudi Arabia's maritime border with Yemen, near Jizan April 8, 2015. Iran sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, state media reported, establishing a military presence off the coast of Yemen where Saudi Arabia is leading a bombing campaign to oust the Iran-allied Houthi movement. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser - GF10000052470

Saudi Arabia thwarted an attack by Yemen's Iran-backed rebels that sparked a fire near an Aramco oil distribution centre on the Red Sea coast, an official at the energy ministry said.

Saudi security forces intercepted and destroyed two unmanned explosives-packed boats that the Houthi rebels used to target a major refinery and terminal in the southern Saudi province of Jizan, the official told the Saudi Press Agency

The attempted attack took place late on Wednesday near an offloading platform and caused the floating hoses that unload oil to catch fire, according to the official, who said that the blaze had been brought under control and caused no injuries.

The official condemned the attack as a threat to commercial shipping routes near the vital Bab Al Mandeb strait off Yemen's coast, which is used by vessels carrying oil from the Gulf to Europe, as well as goods from Asia to Europe.

The Houthi rebels have repeatedly fired drones and missiles targeting oil installations, airports and cities in Saudi Arabia since the kingdom launched a military coalition to support Yemen's internationally recognised government in early 2015.

The Saudi-led coalition said on Friday it had intercepted and destroyed five explosive-laden drones launched towards Saudi Arabia by the rebels on Thursday.

In September 2019, drone and missile attacks claimed by the Houthis struck two key oil installations in Saudi Arabia, halting about half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil. Saudi Arabia and the US blamed the attack on Iran, which has denied involvement.

The Houthis overran Yemen's capital and much of the north in 2014, driving the government into exile. The war in the Arab world's poorest country has killed more than 100,000 people, pushed millions to the brink of famine and precipitated what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN-led effort to find a political solution to the war received a boost recently with the largest exchange of prisoner between the two sides since the conflict began.