Saudi air raids in response to Houthi attacks on pipelines

Saudi air raids in response to Houthi attacks on pipelines

May 16, 2019– Mary Greeley News – At least nine military posts hit in the center of Sana’a and on the outskirts of the capital. Yesterday there were heavy clashes between rebels and pro-Saudi government in the port city of Hudaydah. Unconfirmed loyalist sources announce the killing of a hundred fighters.

Drone attacks on a Saudi oil pipeline west of Riyadh on Tuesday have revealed an apparent significant leap in the capabilities of the Ansar Allah fighting group, otherwise known as the Houthis.

The Aramco East-West pipeline, stretching across the country to the port and oil terminal at Yenbu, was damaged in two places as pumping stations were hit.

The attacks caused minor damage but alarmed an international community already rattled by the sharp downturn in relations between Iran and the United States.

This morning the Saudi-led Arab coalition carried out a series of air raids in the Sana’a region (capital of Yemen) against Houthi targets, in response to recent attacks by rebels against oil facilities in the kingdom. The news has been confirmed by several inhabitants of the area and Houthi sources, broadcast by the al-Arabiya satellite channel.

Saudi air raids in response to Houthi attacks on pipelines

An eyewitness reported a “strong explosion” in the center of Sana’a. The Houthi-controlled Al-Massirah television chain spoke of bombings by Saudi aggressor aircraft. According to various witnesses, the air raids have centered nine military positions of Shiite rebels – supported by Iran – in the city and in the suburbs.

Drones have been increasingly used by the Houthis in operations against the Saudi-UAE-led coalition.

In March the Houthis released video footage of a drone flying past Saudi’s al-Shuqaiq water treatment and power plant, 130km from the Yemeni border.

While the Houthis have leant heavily on Iranian help in the past, Houthi drones have increasingly used parts that are commercially available in the international market, with the conflict itself acting as a catalyst for design innovations.

This latest attack signifies a big jump in abilities as the drone flew more than 800km into Saudi Arabia to successfully attack its target.

Yesterday the clashes between the two fronts also concerned the port city of Hudaydah, where a peace agreement mediated by the United Nations had been brokered by has been so far ignored. The fighting represented yet another violation of the ceasefire and could further complicate troop withdrawal operations as have envisaged by the agreement

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May 11 the Houthi rebels began operations to withdraw from three strategic ports in the country, including that of Hudaydah. From here come primary goods like food, humanitarian aid and medicine, to feed millions of reduced Yemenis threatened by famine and conflict.

The Saudi government media, meanwhile, claim the killing of a hundred Houthi by loyalist forces loyal to Riyadh. Added to this is the capture of at least 120 fighters during a surprise attack in the central region of Dali. However, the information cannot be independently verified, and the Houthis have not yet wanted to confirm or deny the news.

This takes place the day after the insurgents announced that they had hit and damaged a series of oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia with a drone attack.

Saudi air raids in response to Houthi attacks on pipelines

A further signal of the escalation of tension in the region between Iran and the United States, and their respective allies in the Middle East region. Meanwhile, the Houthi rebels threaten new operations against strategic economic targets for Riyadh.

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A slow, unstealthy aircraft was able to fly for several hours deep into Saudi Arabia, and was not detected and intercepted in a time of war.

This will ring alarm bells, as retired Jordanian air force general Mamour al-Nowar told Al Jazeera.

“Their air defense system completely failed to handle such attacks” and the Houthis now have the ability “to reach Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” potentially paralyzing the country “if they hit desalination water pumping stations or the [almost built] nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi”.

Saudi air raids in response to Houthi attacks on pipelines

Analysts are divided on whether the pipeline attack and the earlier alleged sabotage attacks against the tankers off the coast of the Emirati port of Fujairah are linked in some way.

Oil and gas economist Cornelia Meyer is emphatic that a link is tangible: “Absolutely, and what that tells me is that it’s not just an isolated rebel group doing this, it’s a very well-orchestrated campaign.”

Saudi air raids in response to Houthi attacks on pipelines

Hamdi is more cautious: “The circumstances of the sabotage attacks off Fujairah aren’t quite clear yet. The Houthis have announced that they are the ones responsible for the Riyadh attack but as far as I’m aware no one has claimed responsibility for the act on the tankers in Fujairah.”

The pipeline itself was built during the Iran-Iraq war as an alternative to Saudi Arabia should the Strait of Hormuz be closed for any reason, as was the oil terminal at the Emirati port of Fujairah.

The message sent, according to military analyst Elias Farhat, is that “it is not safe” for either the UAE or Saudi Arabia “to bypass the Strait of Hormuz”.

Despite the minor damage in the attack, there is now increasing concern that, given the current tension, small acts of military violence could spark a regional conflict.

Mary Greeley News

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