Saudi Arabia’s military intercepted an explosives-laden boat in the south of the Red Sea, the Saudi Press Agency reported on May 24, adding it was an attempted attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen.
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“The Houthi militia continues to threaten shipping lines and global trade,” a spokesperson for the Saudi-backed coalition in Yemen was quoted as saying by the SPA.
On May 23, Houthi spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya Saree said on Twitter that the Houthis had shot down a Chinese-made Saudi-owned CH4 spy plane.
The Red Sea is a critical shipping passage. About 1.5 million b/d of crude oil from Persian Gulf states Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia move through the Red Sea and then through the SUMED pipeline via northern Egypt.
There has been a recent increase in attacks — both aerial and by booby-trapped vessels — by Houthi rebels on critical Saudi infrastructure, including oil-related targets. The latest incident highlighted the risks involved in maritime trade in the Middle East, with armed guards on ships and war risk premiums paid while moving cargoes.
Most attacks have been intercepted or missed their intended targets, and have not resulted in significant damage or disruption in production.
However, a September 2019 attack on Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq giant crude processing plant and Khurais oil field, knocked out 5.7 million b/d — 5% of global crude demand — temporarily, throwing the oil market into disarray. However, it took just 10 days for Aramco to carry out sufficient repairs for the company’s total output to recover to 10 million b/d.
Additionally, in May 2019, the Houthis claimed a drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s 5 million b/d East-West pipeline, which runs from Abqaiq in the West of the country, to the Red Sea in the East. Repairs are ongoing.
Attacks increased in frequency in March and April, all of which Saudi Arabia said it had intercepted. On April 15, the Houthis claimed to have launched several ballistic missiles attack Saudi Aramco facilities at the city of Jazan.
On April 12, the Houthis targeted Aramco facilities in Jeddah and Jubail in a ballistic missile bombardment. That followed several similar attacks in March aimed at targets on Saudi Arabia’s east and west coasts.
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