Yemen rebels claim attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels said Wednesday they had launched missile and drone attacks on Saudi targets, including oil facilities belonging to the energy giant Aramco.

Houthi forces attacked "Aramco (facilities) in Jizan, Abha and Jizan airports, Khamis Mushait base and vital targets deep inside Saudi Arabia with a large number of missiles and drones", spokesman Yahya al-Saree told a press conference in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday.

Saree did not specify when the strikes were carried out and neither Aramco nor the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government immediately responded to requests for confirmation.

Saree said the attacks were "in retaliation for the escalation of air strikes by the enemy" during the recent fierce fighting between government and rebel troops to the north and east of Sanaa.

Attacks on Aramco oil facilities last September caused massive damage, halving the kingdom's crude output temporarily and creating havoc on global oil markets. 

The Houthis claimed responsibility for those strikes, but the US said the attacks involved cruise missiles from Iran and amounted to "an act of war". Iran denied any involvement.

Saree also said the rebels had made major advances in fighting against the government forces in the capital and other provinces, seizing the entire Nihm district in Sanaa province and making gains in the Jawf and Marib provinces during operations that are ongoing.

"An area totalling 2,500 square kilometres (960 square miles) has been liberated," he said, adding that government forces had "collapsed and that Houthi fighters reached the vicinity of Marib city", the capital of the province.

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Pro-government sources admitted on Monday that the rebels had captured the route that connects Sanaa to the provinces of Marib to the east and Jawf to the north.

They said then that dozens had been killed or wounded in the fighting around Sanaa in the previous two days, but were not able to give precise figures.

Saree said that thousands of government troops had been killed, wounded or captured during the fighting.

The United Nations Security Council convened Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Yemen, amid growing concern over the deteriorating situation and calls for the parties to re-engage in the political process, diplomats said. 

Read more: Yemen in Focus: Nationwide violence shakes period of peace

Yemen's deadly conflict began with the 2014 takeover of the capital by Houthi rebels who went on to control much of the country's north. In response, a Saudi-led coalition allied with the internationally-recognised government intervened to push back the rebels in March 2015.

However, the relentless campaign has seen Saudi-led airstrikes hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing thousands of Yemeni civilians. Meanwhile, the Houthis have used drones and missiles to attack the neighbouring Saudi kingdom.

The war has killed over 100,000 people and created what the UN has branded as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.

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