April 4 (UPI) — An oil tanker moving through the Red Sea suffered only minor damage after it was attacked by Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Saudi government said.
Col. Turku al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, said on Twitter that naval forces were able to thwart a major escalation after Houthi rebels targeted a Saudi oil tanker.
Speaking through the official Saudi Press Agency, the spokesman said the attack was in international waters and a flagrant violation to maritime rules in the Red Sea. Coalition forces would take all necessary steps to ensure navigation through the region was secured.
A Saudi-led operation, Decisive Storm, aims to dislodge Houthis from power in Yemen. The Houthi rebel group has support from Tehran, pushing the conflict into a proxy war between Iran, a Shiite power and Saudi Arabia, a Sunni kingdom.
The government in Riyadh said missiles fired by Houthis struck several targets in Saudi Arabia in late March. The conflict has added a geopolitical risk premium to the price of oil, though that risk has been factored in so far in April. Even with the recent attack, crude oil prices are down sharply in Wednesday trading.
Yemen is not a major oil producer, though more than 3 million barrels of oil per day passes through its Bab el-Mandab shipping channel.
A spokesperson for Austrian energy company OMV confirmed to UPI that it was monitoring the situation in Yemen. The company is assessing the conflict, but it’s made no decision on whether or not to return to production so far.
OMV declared force majeure on production and contracts in Yemen in 2015 because of the deterioration in security, but said it could return to work quickly if the situation improved.
Force majeure is a contractual condition related to circumstances beyond the control of the parties involved.