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In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, firefighters try to extinguish a blaze at an Aramco terminal in the southern border town of Jizan, Saudi Arabia, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Cairo: A barrage of cross-border attacks by Yemen’s Al Houthi rebels against energy facilities inside Saudi Arabia on Sunday have cast a shadow over prospects for a peace offer by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end Yemen’s seven-year conflict.

Last week, the six-nation GCC said it had invited Yemeni sides to talks under the grouping’s sponsorship in the Saudi capital Riyadh slated for March 29 and April 7.

The talks, according to the GCC, seek to unify inter-Yemeni ranks in support of legitimacy and state institutions in the war-ravaged country.

“The consultations aim to encourage all Yemeni parties without exception to accept a comprehensive ceasefire, enter UN-sponsored peace consultations backed by the Gulf states, consolidate state institutions, enable them to perform their constitutional duties on the Yemeni territory, and restore security, peace and stability to Yemen,” the GCC Secretary-General Nayaf Al Hajraf said last Thursday.

The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.

The initiative received unqualified backing from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, while Al Houthis gave a conditional approval of the invitation, demanding such talks be hosted by any “neutral” country not linked to an ongoing Saudi-led military campaign against the Iran-supported rebels in Yemen.

On Sunday, a Saudi-led coalition said Saudi air defences had intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile and nine explosives-laden drones launched towards the areas of Jazan, Khamis Mushait, Taif, Yanbu and Dhahran Al Janub in Saudi Arabia. The drone and missile strikes also ignited a fire at a tank at a petroleum distribution in the Saudi port city of Jiddah and affected production at the gas facility in Yanbu. The overall extent of damage at the installations remained unclear.

The attacks targeted several civilian objects and economic installations, including desalination and power plants as well as facilities operated by the Saudi oil company Aramco, the alliance said.

The “hostile” attacks and debris resulting from their interception caused material damage to the facilities, civilian vehicles and houses, but no casualties were reported.

Initial investigations indicated that the militia had used Iranian-made cruise missiles in the assaults, the alliance said in a statement.

The rebels’ military rebel escalation is seen as formulating their response to the GCC initiative and an attempt to project a powerful image before participating in any future negotiations.


“These brutal attacks are a dangerous escalation,” said alliance’s spokesman Turki Al Malki. “They also represent the terrorist Houthi militia’s position regarding the invitation extended by the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council to host inclusive Yemeni-Yemeni consultations, and underline the militia’s approach of rejection towards all international efforts and initiatives, including the Saudi initiative [in 2021] and reaching a comprehensive and sustainable political resolution to end the Yemeni crisis,” Al Malki added.

In recent months, Al Houthis have launched dozens of missile and drone attacks into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The rebels have plunged Yemen into a devastating war after they unseated the internationally recognised government and seized some parts of the impoverished country including Sana’a in late 2014.

In 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition initiated a campaign in Yemen against the rebels in response to a request from the legitimate government there.