Aden oil refinery set ablaze in Houthi attack
Yemeni children walk through rubble following a Saudi airstrike in Sanaa, July 13, 2015. (AFP/File)
Houthi forces fired mortar rounds at an oil refinery in the southern Yemeni city of Aden Monday, starting a huge fire, witnesses and local officials said.
The mortar barrage hit three full storage tanks, in an incident sure to add to the fuel crisis in the southern port city.
Saudi-led warplanes, meanwhile, bombed Houthi rebels who clashed with pro-government fighters in the south despite a UN-declared truce aimed at delivering desperately needed aid, military sources said.
The coalition raids targeted positions of the Houthi rebels and their allies in Aden and Lahej provinces.
A weeklong UN-brokered cease-fire was meant to begin Saturday. It failed to take hold, after Saudi Arabia refused to recognize the truce and said it had not been asked by exiled President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi to stop its campaign.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “very much disappointed” that the humanitarian pause in fighting didn’t take hold.
Ban said Thursday that Hadi had “communicated his acceptance of the pause to the coalition to ensure their support and collaboration.”
“Different people are saying different things. We very much stand by the commitments we have received for this pause,” Dujarric told reporters.
“We are continuing with contacts at various levels,” he said.
Latest airstrikes targeted a military engineering building in the Sanaa neighborhood of Sawan, witnesses said. Medical sources said the raids killed ten civilians.
However, the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency gave a death toll of 25, and said around 50 people were wounded in the Sawan raids.
The attack on the refinery in the Buraiqah area sent black smoke and flames swirling high into the sky.
“We are trying to put out the fire. The shelling targeted the tanks where we were storing diesel and fuel for local consumption in Aden. The damage is going to be very big,” one official at the facility told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
After months of conflict, most of Yemen’s oil and gas industry has ground to a halt.
Industry sources said in April the 150,000 barrels-per-day Aden refinery had shut its operations and declared force majeure on its imports and exports due to the war.
Residents say that despite heavy shelling, locals had been able to tap the refinery’s oil and gas supplies to meet their own needs.
Nationwide fuel shortages have spread disease and suffering in a country where access to water usually depends on fuel powered pumps and over 20 million people – 80 percent of the population – need aid, according to the United Nations.