Yemen rebels claim Saudi oil facility hit; no damage seen

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FILE - This Sept. 15, 2019, file photo, shows storage tanks at the North Jiddah bulk plant, an Aramco oil facility, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Yemen's Houthi rebels said they struck a Saudi oil facility in the port city of Jiddah on Thursday, March 4, 2021, the latest in a series of cross-border attacks the group has claimed against the kingdom amid the grinding war in Yemen. A Houthi military spokesman, tweeted that the rebels fired a new Quds-2 cruise missile at the facility. He posted a satellite image online that matched Aramcos North Jiddah Bulk Plant, where oil products are stored in tanks. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

DUBAI – Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they attacked a Saudi oil facility in the port city of Jiddah on Thursday amid their campaign of drone and missile attacks on the kingdom, though satellite pictures later analyzed by The Associated Press showed no new apparent damage at the site.

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned media did not acknowledge any incident in Jiddah. But overnight, a military coalition led by the Saudis announced that the Houthis launched two explosives-laden drones toward Khamis Mushait, a southwestern city home to the King Khalid Air Base, and later two ballistic missiles toward the southern province of Jizan. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Brig. Gen. Yehia Sarie, a Houthi military spokesman, tweeted that the rebels fired a new Quds-2 cruise missile at the facility. He posted a satellite image online that matched Aramco’s North Jiddah Bulk Plant, where oil products are stored in tanks. The Iran-backed rebels claimed they hit the same facility last November, an attack the Saudi-led coalition later acknowledged had ignited a fire at the plant.

While such attacks rarely cause damage or casualties, strikes on major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, have shaken energy markets and the world economy.

The Jiddah plant serves as a temporary storage facility for gasoline, diesel and other petrochemicals before distribution. The facility sits just southeast of the city's King Abdulaziz International Airport, a major airfield that handles Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca.

Flights coming into the airport diverted or otherwise flew in circles early Thursday morning without explanation, according to tracking data from website FlightRadar24.com.

An Associated Press journalist at the scene did not see any smoke immediately rising from the installation Thursday morning. On Friday, the AP analyzed satellite photos of the area taken by Planet Labs Inc. The images Thursday showed char marks on a tank struck in the November attack that had been present in previous days' images, but no other signs of a disruption or damage at the facility.

Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s oil giant that now has a sliver of its worth traded publicly on the stock market, did not respond to a request for comment. Its stock traded slightly up Thursday on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange as the international crude benchmark, Brent, rose to more than $64 a barrel.