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Saudi Oil Depot Hit by Houthi Attack Ahead of Formula 1 Race

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The Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched another attack on Saudi oil production in Jeddah, hitting a Saudi Aramco fuel depot on Friday as the city welcomes visitors for its first Formula 1 racing event.

The offensive is aimed at forcing the Saudis to end their blockade of Yemen.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the group attacked Aramco’s facilities with missiles and the Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries with drones.

The attacks targeted “Aramco facilities in Jeddah and vital facilities in the capital of the Saudi enemy, Riyadh”, tweeted Saree. Facilities of oil giant Aramco were also attacked in Jizan, Najran, Ras Tanura and Rabigh with “a large number of drones”, he added.

Al Arabiya TV, quoting the coalition, said the kingdom’s air defence system destroyed two explosive-laden drones targeting Najran.

Videos posted to social media showed a massive black plume of smoke rising out of the facility’s storage tanks while a fireball erupted within.

The blaze could be seen from the racetrack, where the city will host the iconic Saudi Formula 1 Grand Prix auto races from Friday through Sunday.

The United States condemned the Houthi attacks.

“At a time when the parties should be focused on de-escalation and bringing needed life-saving relief to the Yemeni people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis continue their destructive behavior and reckless terrorist attacks striking civilian infrastructure,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The strikes were announced as the third phase of the Houthis’ “Breaking of the Siege Operation” and was aimed at critical infrastructure, according to the group. The Ras Tanura refinery and Rabigh oil refinery were also hit with drones, the rebels said.

It was the second time an Aramco plant in Jeddah was hit within two weeks, and a number of other sites were recently targeted, including an Aramco distribution center at Jizan, a natural gas plant, and the Yasref refinery at Yanbu.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition battling the Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital of Sanaa in September 2014, for seven years.

The kingdom has been internationally criticised for air raids that have killed dozens of civilians while the Houthis have pointed to the assaults as a justification for the launch of drones, missiles and mortars into the kingdom.

On Saturday, Saudi state media said the coalition fighting in Yemen had begun a military operation – including air attacks on Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, and the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah – to stop attacks on its oil facilities and “protect global energy sources”.

While the Arab Coalition has reported the strike on the Aramco facilities had no repercussions for public life in Jeddah, according to local media, flights into Jeddah and other nearby airports were being held.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry has warned the attack will likely impact oil distribution, presumably causing prices to spike still higher.

The EU and US have already placed various levels of restrictions on fuel from Russia following its offensive in Ukraine, and US sanctions remain in place on Iranian and Venezuelan oil.

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