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Yemen's Houthis target Saudi oil facilities in new escalation

Houthis claim to have fired drones and missiles at Ras Tanura, one of the world's biggest oil ports, and military targets in the eastern area of Dammam
Smoke rises over Sanaa after air strikes 'on military targets' by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen (AFP)

A missile and drone attack targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry on Sunday in an assault claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, a new escalation in the six-year conflict.

The attack on energy giant Saudi Aramco's facilities came as the Saudi-led military coalition bombed Yemen's Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa after intercepting a separate flurry of cross-border Houthi drones and missiles, according to AFP.

The rising hostilities underscore a dangerous intensification of Yemen's conflict between the coalition-backed Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthis, despite a renewed US push to end the war.

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The Houthi rebels claimed on Twitter they had fired drones and missiles at Ras Tanura, one of the world's biggest oil ports, and military targets in the eastern area of Dammam, as well as in southeastern provinces near the Yemeni border. 

The Saudi defence ministry said it had intercepted a drone targeting a petroleum storage yard at Ras Tanura and a ballistic missile targeting Aramco facilities in the eastern city of Dhahran.

Shrapnel from the missile fell close to an Aramco residential compound in the city, which is home to thousands of company employees and their families, the energy ministry said.

The attacks did not result in any casualties or damage, it added, without specifying who was behind them.

The kingdom's oil-rich eastern region is home to most of Aramco's production and export facilities.

The Defence Ministry said the attacks targeted "the backbone of the world economy, oil supplies and global energy security".

"Such acts of sabotage do not only target the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also the security and stability of energy supplies to the world, and therefore, the global economy," a ministry spokesman said in a statement on state media.

Explosions rock Sanaa

Earlier on Sunday, explosions had rocked Sanaa, as the Saudi-led coalition targeted Houthi rebels. 

The coalition said it hit military targets after intercepting 12 drones launched by the rebels

Meanwhile, the Houthis said they intercepted a Turkish-made reconnaissance plane belonging to the Saudi Air Force. 

AFP reported plumes of smoke rising over Sanaa because of the air strikes, which numbered seven according to the Houthis.

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The coalition, fighting in Yemen alongside the internationally recognised government against the Houthis, officially known as Ansar Allah, said the drones were aimed at "civilian" targets in Saudi Arabia, SPA reported, without specifying the locations.

Targeting civilians in the kingdom was a "red line," the coalition said after the retaliatory strikes on Sanaa.

Fighting has increased in recent weeks, especially east of Sanaa around the Marib governorate, which is the last stronghold of pro-government forces. 

At least 90 fighters were killed over 24 hours, government forces reported on Saturday. 

The UN has warned of a humanitarian crisis in Marib, where more than 8,000 people have been displaced by the fighting over the past month. It has also warned that Yemen is facing the world's worst famine in decades. 

The United States last month delisted the Houthis as terrorists and stepped up efforts to de-escalate the six-year conflict.

The terror designation, imposed late in the administration of former US President Donald Trump, had been widely criticised by aid organisations, who warned it would hamper their efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

"The removal of the Houthis from the list of terrorist groups has been interpreted in a hostile way by the militia," the Saudi Press Agency cited the coalition as saying.