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Saudi oil stations hit by armed drones

The attacks come one day after two Saudi oil tankers were struck near the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Two oil pumping stations have today been hit by armed drones close to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Energy Minister said on state TV.

Khalid Al-Falih said the attacks had caused a fire at one of the oil stations – which was now contained.

He added there was additional damage at another pump but that oil production had not been disrupted.

“These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” Al-Falih said in a statement issued by his ministry.

The Al-Masirah TV channel, which is run by the Houthi group in Yemen, said earlier today that its drones had hit a number of Saudi targets. It failed to detail where or when the attacks took place.

The channel quoted a Houthi official was quoted as saying: “This large military operation is in response to the continued aggression and blockade of our people and we are prepared to carry out more unique and harsh strikes.”

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Though the Houthis often launch drone and missile attacks at Saudi cities, according to two Saudi sources speaking to Reuters, this was the first time that an Aramco facility has been hit.

The East-West pipeline of Saudi’s state-run Aramco has been temporarily shut down to evaluate its condition. The pipeline mainly transports crude from the kingdom’s eastern fields to Yanbu port.

The attacks come one day after two Saudi oil tankers were struck near the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

UAE authorities have been slow to provide further information about the nature of the attacks which also saw two other ships damaged.

Some have drawn conclusions between the targetting of the Saudi ships and the escalating tensions between the US and Iran in the Gulf.

Last week, the US military deployed response units, including a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Arabian Gulf, in what it called a response to the “threat of upcoming attacks on US forces and interests in the region.”

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Iran dismissed the deployment as “psychological warfare”.

Though the Houthis do not publicly announce their affiliation with Iran, intelligence gathered from weapons interceptions tends to point to Tehran’s support of the Shia group.

Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition, with support of the US, launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The UN describes the situation as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.

Tens of thousands of people, including civilians, are believed to have been killed and the UN estimates 14 million Yemenis are at risk of famine.

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