January 29, 2020 / 1:34 PM / 24 days ago

Yemen's Houthis say they fired at Aramco, other Saudi targets

DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement said on Wednesday it had fired rocket and drone strikes at Saudi targets including Aramco oil facilities, the group’s first claim of such attacks since it offered to halt them four months ago.

Few details were given of the precise nature and timing of the attacks, and there was no immediate confirmation from the Saudi authorities of any strikes.

In comments reported by Houthi-run Al Masirah TV, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria said more than 15 “operations” had been carried out in the past week inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for an escalation in air strikes.

Saudi Aramco facilities in Jizan on the Red Sea were targeted, along with other targets near the border with Yemen, including Abha and Jizan airports and Khamis Mushait military base, “with a large number of rockets and drones”, he said in a separate statement.

State oil giant Aramco declined to comment on the report.

The Houthis have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for nearly five years. If confirmed, the attacks would be the first by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia since late September, when the group said it would halt missile and drone attacks if the coalition ended air strikes on Yemen.

Oil prices were higher after the reports.

The Houthis had made their offer to halt strikes on Saudi targets last year after claiming responsibility for a Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities that initially halved the kingdom’s output. Riyadh rejected the Houthi claim of responsibility for that attack and blamed Iran, which denied it.

After a lull in hostilities in recent months on many fronts, violence has escalated at a frontline east of Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa, since a Jan. 19 missile attack on a government military camp which killed more than 100 people.

United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths in the past week condemned the uptick in troop movements, air strikes, and missile and drone attacks, saying they jeopardise progress being made on de-escalation and confidence building.

Moammar al-Eryani, the information minister for the Saudi-backed internationally recognised Yemeni government, said the Houthi attack claims were a “declaration of the death of the political process in Yemen”.

Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since the Houthi movement ousted the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the capital in late 2014. The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore him.

The United Nations has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war and, separately, Riyadh has been holding informal talks with the Houthis since late September about de-escalation.

Reporting by Maher Chmeytelli, Lisa Barrington and Rania El Gamal, Writing by Lisa Barrington, Editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Peter Graff

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