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Yemeni rebels target Saudi Aramco in Jazan

The sun sets over crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah tank farm, operated by Saudi Aramco, in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.
The sun sets over crude oil storage tanks at the Juaymah tank farm, operated by Saudi Aramco, in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a missile attack on Saudi Aramco, but an oil official in the kingdom said the projectiles were intercepted before they could hit their target in the southern Jazan region.

The rebels also used missiles and drones against Abha and Jazan airports, the Khamis Mushait base, and other targets inside Saudi Arabia, Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree said on television. He didn’t give a date or more details on the attacks, which he said were a response to air strikes on Yemen.

Saudi Aramco declined to comment, but a Saudi oil official said that all the Houthis’ missiles were intercepted. He asked not to be identified as he’s not authorised to speak to media.

Brent crude futures pared gains after surging as much as 1.9% when the attack was first reported. The benchmark was trading 25 cents higher at $59.76 a barrel at 2:41 p.m. in London.

Jazan is the site of a 400,000-barrels-a-day Saudi Aramco refinery, but the city, near the border with Yemen, isn’t home to crude oil production facilities or major export terminals. The Jazan refinery and petrochemical complex is expected to be fully operational in the second half of 2020, Aramco said at the time of its initial public offering last year.

The Iran-backed Houthis have been fighting a Saudi-led military coalition since 2015, a war that has regularly sent tensions in the Gulf soaring. They have repeatedly claimed responsibility for attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, most notably the Sept. 14 aerial attacks that temporarily paralysed half of the kingdom’s production capacity. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia, however, said Iran was behind that assault.

The Houthis have launched hundreds of missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia since 2015. However few of them have caused casualties or major damage to infrastructure.

The Houthi attacks appeared to halt at the end of last year as momentum grew behind efforts to end the war, which sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and brought Yemen to the brink of famine. The U.S. supports efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict, and in November, Omani Foreign Minister Yousef Bin Alawi, whose country is facilitating talks between the sides, said he’s optimistic that Saudi Arabia and the Houthis could reach an agreement.

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