Middle East/North Africa

Saudi oil refineries ablaze after drone strikes claimed by Houthi rebels

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Two major Saudi oil refineries were ablaze on Saturday following drone strikes claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen amid that country’s ongoing civil war.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties from the drone strikes, which reportedly hit several miles within Saudi territory, targeting a key element of the country’s economy.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia was shutting down about half its oil output in the wake of the strikes targeting facilities run by state-owned oil company Aramco.

Sources told the Journal that it amounted to the loss of about 5 million barrels of oil per day, or roughly 5 percent of the world’s total daily production of crude oil.

{mosads}The Saudi interior ministry announced there were fires at Aramco facilities in the eastern city of Abqaiq and farther southwest in Khurais as a result of the strikes.

State media reported that the fires were “controlled and contained” but provided no additional information.

No residential areas are located near the sites, though they are key to the country’s oil production.

Khurais is home to the country’s second-largest oil field, producing about 1 percent of the world’s oil, while the refinery in Abqaiq is Saudi Arabia’s largest oil facility, the BBC noted.

The Houthi rebels took responsibility for the attacks in a statement from spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Sare’e broadcast by the group’s media arm.

“Air Force of the Yemeni Army and Popular Committees, Saturday morning carried out a large-scale operation with 10 drones, targeting Abqaiq and Khurais refineries east of Saudi Arabia,” Sare’e said, adding that Houthi operations will “expand” and be “more painful” as long as Saudi Arabia continues its military efforts in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is currently leading a regional coalition with U.S. support to try to dislodge the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from power in Yemen in a conflict that started in 2015 as a civil war but morphed into a proxy conflict between Riyadh and Tehran.

The air assaults have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and produced one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world as the conflict grinds to a stalemate.

Houthis have launched attacks into Saudi territory before, sending an explosive-laden drone targeting Aramco oil pipelines in May, but Sare’e said Saturday’s assault, which hit about 500 miles from Yemeni territory, was one of the largest operations the rebels have launched yet.

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