Armed drones attacked two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in what Riyadh called a “cowardly” act by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
The drone strikes caused minor damage to one of the stations supplying a pipeline running from its oil-rich Eastern Province to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
“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,” Falih said.
A fire that broke out was later brought under control, but the country’s state-run oil giant Aramco stopped pumping oil through the pipeline.
Falih called the attack “cowardly”, saying recent sabotage acts against its vital installations not only target Saudi Arabia but the safety of the world’s energy supply and global economy.
He also promised the production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted.
Oil prices rose on news of the attacks on the stations, 320km west of the capital Riyadh. Brent was trading at about $71 up 1.2 percent.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said seven drones carried out the strikes on the Saudi oil installations.
“It was a successful operation. We found assistance from people living in Saudi Arabia, and we had excellent intelligence,” Saree said.
Andreas Krieg from King’s College London said the drone strikes show the Houthis are now capable of attacking far into Saudi territory. He called the incident “very significant” because the target was oil production.
“The Houthi capability has increased massively in recent years, some of it homegrown but [the attack] definitely suggests that the Iranians have helped out,” Krieg told Al Jazeera. “They’ve never been able to deeply penetrate Saudi Arabia… It looks like they are targeting the oil infrastructure.”