RIYADH -- The Iran-backed Houthis launched a wave of cross-border drone and missile attacks at civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, as aid groups warned that a funding shortfall would have grave consequences for Yemen.
The Houthis' latest salvo of attacks began Saturday (March 19) and continued into Sunday evening, when an attack on an Aramco petroleum product distribution station in the Red Sea city of Jeddah caused a small fire.
Earlier Sunday, the Arab coalition destroyed a boat drone off the coast of al-Hodeidah, after attacks hit sites across Saudi Arabia, including Aramco facilities and a water desalination plant.
The Houthis fired armed drones at a Dhahran al-Janoub power station, an Aramco gas plant in Yanbu Industrial City on the Red Sea, and a gas station in Khamis Mushayt, the Arab coalition said.
It said the Houthis had used Iranian cruise missiles to attack a desalination plant in al-Shuqaiq and an Aramco petroleum distribution plant in Jizan.
The drone assault on the YASREF refinery in Yanbu Industrial City "led to a temporary reduction in the refinery's production", the Saudi energy ministry said in a statement.
The Houthis confirmed they had launched the drone and missile attacks.
Saudi Arabia on Monday warned that the Houthis' attacks on the kingdom's oil facilities pose a "direct threat" to global supplies.
The cross-border assaults are a "direct threat to the security of oil supplies in these extremely sensitive circumstances witnessed by the global energy markets", the kingdom's foreign ministry said.
Attacks 'enabled by Iran'
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan denounced the "terrorist" strikes, saying the United States "will continue to fully support our partners in the defence of their territory from Houthi attacks".
He said the Houthis were launching cross-border attacks "with enabling by Iran, which supplies them with missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) components, training, and expertise".
"This is done in violation of UN [United Nations] Security Council resolutions prohibiting the import of weapons into Yemen," he added, calling on the Houthis to co-operate with the UN to de-escalate the conflict.
In recent weeks, the United States has transferred a significant number of Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported.
A few days before the latest attacks, the Houthis rejected a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) invitation to attend talks in Riyadh between March 29 and April 7.
The GCC said Thursday it seeks to host discussions between Yemen's warring sides in Saudi Arabia, despite the Houthis' rejection of talks in "enemy countries".
The six-nation GCC was among the entities condemning the Houthis' weekend attacks, along with the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), Muslim World League, Arab Parliament and Arab League.
Nations including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Sudan and Mauritania also denounced the attacks, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
After the attacks, the Arab coalition pledged to use restraint in its response to ensure the success of the upcoming talks in Riyadh, Asharq al-Awsat reported.
The Arab coalition also said it reserves the right to retaliate to the attacks, and cautioned the Houthis against any further such actions.
Hard times in Yemen
Meanwhile, the UN and aid groups on Saturday warned of grave consequences for Yemen after an international pledging conference failed to raise enough money to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
Overshadowed by the conflict in Ukraine, aid-starved Yemen -- already suffering the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN -- is on the verge of total collapse.
With the country almost completely dependent on imports, aid groups say the situation will only worsen following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which produces nearly a third of Yemeni wheat supplies.
Some 80% of its approximately 30 million people depend on aid for survival, after seven years of a conflict set in motion by the Houthis' coup of September 2014 that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, directly or indirectly.
The UN voiced disappointment after Wednesday's conference raised less than a third of the target to help 17.3 million of Yemen's needy. It was seeking $4.27 billion but raised only $1.3 billion.
It has repeatedly warned that aid agencies are running out of funds.
"A shortfall in funding means the needs of people will not be met," said Auke Lootsma, the UN Development Programme's resident representative to Yemen.
"The outlook for next year looks very bleak for Yemen. This is the bleakest situation we've had so far in the country," Lootsma said.
During Wednesday's pledging conference, representatives from Saudi Arabia and the UAE stressed the need to stop the Houthis' "terrorist" actions, with the Emirati official saying the Houthis "obstruct and deviate aid".