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Yemen’s Houthis claim attack on Saudi Aramco oil refinery that sparked fire

The Houthis have escalated cross-border attacks in recent weeks, as fighting intensifies in Yemen’s north
A man looks at a damaged silo a day after an attack at the Saudi Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah, on 24 November 2020 (AFP)

A drone attack on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia on Friday caused a fire that was brought under control, the Saudi energy ministry reported, shortly after Yemen’s Houthi group said it had attacked the oil giant Saudi Aramco.

The attack took place at 6.05am Saudi time, the ministry said in a statement carried by state media. Earlier, the Iran-aligned Houthi group said it hit the state-controlled Aramco facility in the Saudi capital Riyadh in a cross-border attack using six drones.

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The Houthis have stepped up attacks into Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. The last one took place on Monday, with the group saying its drones had struck military targets at Abha airport and the King Khalid air base in Khamis Mushait.

"Our armed forces carried out at dawn today an operation... with six drones which targeted the Aramco company in the capital of the Saudi enemy, Riyadh," Yahya Sarea, a Houthi military spokesman, said on Friday, without describing the targets he said were hit.

The Saudi-led coalition said on 7 March that it had intercepted a barrage of drones and missiles en route to targets including an oil storage yard at Ras Tanura, the site of a refinery and the world's biggest offshore oil-loading facility.  

Sarea said operations against Saudi Arabia will continue and escalate as long as Saudi "aggression" against Yemen continues.

While Riyadh says it intercepts most drones and missiles launched into the kingdom - including, as the Houthis claim, at airports, air bases and energy infrastructure - some have caused damage. 

Sarea warned "foreign companies and citizens" to avoid military sites and key infrastructure.

The escalation of attacks on Saudi Arabia comes as the Houthis press on with an offensive to seize Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the north. 

On Friday, Houthis fighters captured a strategic mountain overlooking Marib city, marking a major advance against the government.

In renewed diplomatic efforts to end the war, the United Nations and United States have urged the Houthis, to turn to negotiations rather than military escalation.

But on Thursday, the Houthis said there will be no ceasefire before the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in Yemen on behalf of the government in 2015, lifts its blockade on the country.