Source: Bloomberg, by Matthew Martin, Mohammed Hatem, and Zaid Sabah
Saudi Aramco needed about 40 minutes to put out the fire caused by a missile strike on a fuel depot in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, with evidence pointing to a sophisticated attack on Saudi Arabian energy infrastructure.
No one was hurt in Monday’s explosion or blaze, and supplies from the facility in the kingdom’s second-biggest city were not interrupted, an Aramco official said Tuesday, asking not to be identified due to company policy.
The attack, for which Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen claimed responsibility, was “similar” to the one on Aramco’s Abqaiq oil-processing plant and Khurais field in September 2019, the official said. Then, missiles and armed drones temporarily knocked out about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil-production capacity and briefly caused crude prices to soar.
Aramco is still assessing the extent of the damage from Monday’s strike, which tore a hole measuring roughly two square meters in a diesel storage tank containing about 480,000 barrels, the official said. The depot has 13 tanks holding diesel, gasoline and jet fuel for the domestic market. Aramco was distributing products again three hours afterward, the official said.
The Houthis have been fighting Yemen’s United Nations-backed government in a civil war since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in an effort to roll back the rebels’ gains. The Houthis frequently fire missiles into Saudi Arabia, some of which are intercepted. They used a Quds 2 rocket on Monday, their spokesman, Yahya Saree, said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia condemned the strike, saying “terrorist and sabotage acts committed against vital installations target the security and stability of energy supplies to the world,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The missile landed a few miles from Jeddah’s main airport and would’ve traveled at least 370 miles (595 kilometers) if fired from Yemen, suggesting a high degree of expertise on the part of the Houthis.
The Houthis, a Shiite group, claimed responsibility for the attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais last year. The UN concluded that those missiles probably came from Iran, which backs the Houthis.
Human rights groups have documented repeated cases of bombings by Saudi-led forces of civilian targets in Yemen, including schools and hospitals. The war there has caused what the UN described in 2018 as the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis.