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Yemen's Houthis launch missile attack on Saudi Aramco site, say officials

UK foreign Secretary says Houthis must 'cease their aggression' following attack which triggered explosion but left no injuries
A view of a kerosene silo at the Saudi Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah (AFP)

An attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on a Saudi Aramco oil facility in the Red Sea city of Jeddah triggered an explosion and a fire in a fuel tank, officials said.

The missile strike occurred the day after the kingdom hosted a virtual summit of G20 nations, and more than a year after the targeting of major Aramco sites that caused turmoil on global oil markets.

The Houthis said they launched a Quds-2 missile at the oil distribution facility in retaliation for Saudi Arabia's role at the head of a military coalition that has intervened in Yemen's long conflict.

"The missile force managed to target the Aramco distribution station in Jeddah with a winged Quds 2 missile," the group's military spokesman Yahya Sarea said.

The rebels have since the start of last year stepped up attacks on neighbouring Saudi Arabia, mainly targeting southern provinces along their shared border. Jeddah however lies some 600km from the frontier.

"An explosion took place as a result of a terrorist attack by a projectile, causing a fire in a fuel tank at the petroleum products distribution terminal in the north of Jeddah," the Saudi energy ministry said in a statement.

Firefighting teams extinguished the blaze and there were no casualties, it said, adding that Aramco's fuel deliveries were not affected by this act of "terrorism and sabotage".

The Saudi-led military coalition said the Houthis were "implicated in this cowardly terrorist attack, which does not target the national capabilities of the kingdom, but rather targets the nerve of the global economy and its supplies as well as global energy security".

Sarea, spokesman for the Houthis' military wing, said earlier that its "missile force" targeted a distribution station belonging to the energy giant.

"The Quds-2 type hit its target accurately and Saudi ambulances and firefighting vehicles rushed to the targeted location," he said.

International condemnations

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab criticised the attack in a tweet.

"This attack on civilian infrastructure contradicts the Houthis’ claims to want to end the conflict," he wrote.

"With Yemen at risk of famine, the Houthis must cease their aggression and work with the UN to achieve peace."

The United Nations also expressed concern over the attack on a civilian target, which it said violated international law.

It called on "all actors to exercise maximum restraint and to demonstrate a serious commitment to engage in the UN-facilitated political process and reach a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict and the suffering of the Yemeni people".

TankerTrackers, an oil shipping monitoring website, cited satellite photos from Planet Labs as showing that a fuel storage tank at the North Jeddah Bulk Plant was "struck and quickly extinguished". 

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Sarea warned foreign companies operating in Saudi Arabia "to avoid vital installations" which could be involved in ongoing operations.

Saudi Arabia has been targeted with dozens of ballistic missile and drone attacks since the start of last year, including a devastating strike on Aramco's facilities in the country's east which temporarily knocked out half the kingdom's crude output.

That strike was claimed by the Houthis, but the United States said it involved cruise missiles from Iran.

Yemen has been locked in conflict since the rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north. 

The crisis escalated when a Saudi-led military coalition intervened to support the internationally recognised government in 2015. 

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian disaster.