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Saudi Arabia halts oil shipments via Bab el-Mandeb after Yemeni retaliatory attacks

Riyadh has temporarily suspended all oil shipments through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait after Yemen’s Ansarullah Movement launched retaliatory attacks on a Saudi warship and a vessel operated by the Riyadh-led coalition waging war the Arabian Peninsula state.

According to Press TV, on Wednesday morning, the Ansarullah-run al-Masirah television network reported that Yemeni fighters had launched a missile attack on the Saudi Dammam battleship off the western coast of Yemen.

In a separate statement carried by Yemen’s official SABA news agency later in the day, the Ansarullah fighters said they had also targeted a coalition boat off the coast of el-Durayhmi in southern Hudaydah Port City.

A Yemeni navy source said that coalition boat was carrying weapons and Saudi-allied forces to Hudaydah, which has been the subject of a military push by Emirati forces and allied militants, backed by Saudi air raids.

Additionally, Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network quoted the Yemeni navy as saying that the boat had been destroyed and all on board had been killed.

However, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement late on Wednesday that the Ansarullah fighters had attacked two Saudi Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), each carrying 2 million barrels of oil, in the Red Sea.

“Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments through Bab el-Mandeb Strait immediately until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab el-Mandeb is safe,” he said.

Falih also said one of the VLCCs had sustained “minimal damage” and efforts were underway to move it to the nearest Saudi port.

Meanwhile, Saudi oil giant Aramco confirmed the Yemeni attacks on the vessels, which were operated by the kingdom’s shipping company Bahri.

It further claimed the decision to suspend shipments via Bab el-Mandeb was “in the interest of the safety of ships and their crews and to avoid the risk of oil spill.”

The Bab el-Mandab Strait, which is the southern entrance to the Red Sea, is one of the world’s key shipping lanes for crude oil and allows crude exports into the European market.

Yemen’s Naval and Coastal Defense Forces command said in a statement that the retaliatory operation “is not the first and will not be the last.”

“We reaffirm that those, who threaten international peace and security and expose the Red Sea security to great risks, are the US-Saudi aggression forces and their crimes and siege against the Yemeni people,” it added.