DRONE attacks have sparked a massive blaze at the world’s biggest oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia amid the Iranian tanker attacks.
Dramatic photos show flames shooting from the Abqaiq facility and the Khurais oil field after they were hit early this morning.
The facility, which is operated by state owned Saudi Aramco, is crucial to global energy supplies and it is not yet know if there are any injuries or deaths.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack – with ten drones used to batter the plant.
Military spokesperson Yahia Sarie has now threatened further attacks unless Saudi Arabia ends the bitter war.
He said: “The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us.”
Both fires are now understood to be under control, the interior ministry told the official Saudi Press Agency.
The Abqaiq oil processing facility is described as the “largest in the world” and uses vital shipping lanes on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.
It was targeted by Al-Qaida suicide bombers in February 2006, who failed to blow it up.
War erupted in 2015 with the Iran-aligned Houthi rebel movement battling against the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led coalition.
Timeline of tensions in the Middle East
- May 5: USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force is deployed in Middle East in response to ‘a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings’ by Iran.
- May 8: Iran vows to enrich its uranium stockpile if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its nuclear deal. The US responds by imposing sanctions on Iran’s metals industry.
- May 10: The US says it will move a Patriot missile battery into the Middle East to counter threats from Iran.
- May 24: President Trump says the US will bolster its military presence in the Middle East with an additional 1,500 troops.
- May 12: The UAE says four commercial ships off its eastern coast “were subjected to sabotage operations,” just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets air false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati port.
- June 13: Two oil tankers are attacked in the Gulf of Oman – Washington blames Iran while Tehran denies involvement
- June 18: US sends more than 1,000 additional troops to Middle East citing Iran’s ‘hostile behaviour’
- June 20: Iran shoots down American ‘spy’ drone insisting the aircraft had flown over its airspace – a claim the US denied
The violence has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
Now the coalition launches air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.
Tensions have also been rising in the region because of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi Arabia and the US both blamed Iran for attacks in the Gulf on two oil tankers in June and July.
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And in May, four tankers – two Saudi-flagged – were damaged by explosions within the UAE’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman.
The shipping lane rivalry was exacerbated even further in June when Iran shot down a US surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
This led to the Pentagon announcing the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia.