Saudi Arabia shuts main oil pipeline after 'Houthi drone attacks'

Saudi Arabia shuts main oil pipeline after 'Houthi drone attacks'
The pipeline has been 'temporarily' shut down after it was hit by Houthi drone attacks.
3 min read
Saudi Arabia has shut its main oil pipeline after drone attacks [Getty]

Yemen's Houthi rebels shut down one of Saudi Arabia's main oil pipelines Tuesday through drone strikes, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions after the mysterious sabotage of several tankers.

Saudi Arabia - the world's largest crude exporter - said two pumping stations on a major Saudi oil pipeline were struck by drones early Tuesday with the Houthi rebels claiming credit for the attack.

The stations lie on the East-West Pipeline, able to pump 5 million barrels of oil a day from the oil-rich eastern province to a Red Sea export terminal.

The announcement came hours after Yemen's Houthi rebels said they had targeted vital installations in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against them.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Saudi Aramco had "temporarily shut down" the pipeline to "evaluate its condition" but added that oil production and exports had not been interrupted.

"The company (Saudi Aramco) is working on restoring the pumping station before resuming operations," he said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The stations reportedly targeted lie west of Riyadh, at Dawadmi and Afeef.

Falih said Tuesday's incident was an "act of terrorism... that not only targets the kingdom but also the security of oil supplies to the world and the global economy".

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdusalam wrote on Twitter that the attacks were "a response to the aggressors continuing to commit genocide" against the Yemeni people.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in the Yemen war to bolster the internationally-recognised government's efforts against the Houthis in March 2015.

During the course of the conflict, the Iran-aligned Houthis have launched several missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia. Yemen's conflict has killed tens of thousands people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say. 

'Very bad mistake'

The reported pipeline attacks came after the UAE said four ships were damaged in "sabotage attacks" off the emirate of Fujairah, close to the Hormuz, on Sunday.

Washington and its Gulf allies stopped short of blaming Riyadh's regional arch-rival Tehran for the sabotage, but US President Donald Trump warned Iran against doing anything to harm US interests.

"If they (Iran) do anything, it would be a very bad mistake," Trump warned at the White House.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hit back, saying the Islamic Republic was "too great to be intimidated by anyone".

The attacks came after the US deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group, an amphibious assault vessel, a Patriot missile battery and B-52 bombers, triggering fears of a possible military confrontation.

'Deliberate sabotage'

A UAE government official said the Saudi oil tankers Al-Marzoqah and Amjad were attacked off the emirate of Fujairah along with the Norwegian tanker Andrea Victory and an Emirati ship, the A. Michel.

No casualties were reported and none of the vessels sank.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the Emirates will probe the "deliberate sabotage".

Saudi Arabia said its two tankers suffered "significant damage" but there was no oil spill.

The Andrea Victory's managers, Thome Group, said the ship's hull had been pierced "after being struck by an unknown object on the waterline".

Asked whether the US believed Iran played a role in the attacks, Washington's Iran envoy Brian Hook declined to comment, saying only that Washington would help the investigation at the request of the UAE.

The United Nations urged all sides to "exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace".

Fujairah port is the only Emirati terminal located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz through which most Gulf oil exports pass.

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