Saudi petroleum site attacked two days before Formula 1 Grand Prix, race to go ahead
The strike was carried out by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which resulted in a fire that could be seen from the Jeddah street circuit.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked an oil facility in Jeddah on Friday, two days before the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix will be held, AFP reported.
The attack on the Aramco oil refinery resulted in a blaze that could be seen from the Jeddah street circuit. Race drivers said they could even smell the fire during their opening practise run.
Sunday’s race, the second one in Saudi Arabia, will continue in Jeddah as planned.
Friday’s second practise session was delayed by 15 minutes before Formula 1 chief Stefano Domenicali said the race would continue.
No casualties were reported in the attack.
“Formula 1 has been in close contact with the relevant authorities following the situation that took place today,” said a Formula 1 spokesperson. “The authorities have confirmed that the event can continue as planned and we will remain in close contact with them and all the teams and closely monitor the situation.”
The decision to continue with the race was taken after a four-hour-long meeting between race organisers and Formula 1 management, reported BBC.
“They are targeting the infrastructure, not the civilians, and, of course, not the track,” said International Automobile Federation chief Mohammed Ben Sulayem. “We’ve checked the facts and we’ve got assurances from the highest level that this is a secure place.”
International Automobile Federation is the body that governs Formula 1.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia had intervened in the Yemen war soon after the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and had restored the internationally-recognised government. Following this, the rebels have conducted many attacks at airports, military installations and oil infrastructure in Saudi.
On Friday, the Houthis targeted the depot that is located southeast of the city’s international airport, which is a crucial hub for Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca, reported the Associated Press.
Brigadier General Turki al-Malki, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, said two oil tanks were damaged in the fire due to the missile attack. He said the fire was put out without injuries.
“This hostile escalation targets oil facilities and aims to undermine energy security and the backbone of global economy,” said al-Malki, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. “These hostile attacks had no impact or repercussions in any way, shape or form on public life in Jeddah.”
The Saudi-led coalition said that it would launch new attacks on Yemen, including on the city of Hodeida.
The Houthi rebels, which claimed responsibility of the attack later in the day, have targeted the oil depot twice before. The first attack took place in November 2020 and the the latest one on March 20.
The oil depot stores diesel, petrol and jet fuel for use in Jeddah, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. It accounts for over a quarter of all of Saudi Arabia’s supplies.
US, UK condemn attack
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the strikes put civilians at risk and must be stopped.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “At a time when the parties should be focused on de-escalation and bringing needed life-saving relief to the Yemeni people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis continue their destructive behavior and reckless terrorist attacks striking civilian infrastructure.”
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan alleged that the attacks were “clearly enabled by Iran”. Western countries and the United Nations claim that Iran supplies Houthis with weapons but Tehran has denied the allegations.
In Tehran, a light projection showing the faces of Houthi leaders was set up at the Freedom Square, according to AP.