DUBAI (Dispatches) -- Yemen’s defense officials said on Saturday that they had launched 10 drones in the "biggest attack” on massive oil and gas facilities inside Saudi Arabia's sprawling desert since the kingdom invaded Yemen in 2015.
Speaking to Al Masirah television, a military spokesman described the attack on Shaybah, close to the United Arab Emirates border, as being launched "in the depths” of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.
"We promise the Saudi regime and the powers of aggression bigger and wider operations if the aggression continues,” Yemen’s armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Sare'e said.
The state oil giant Aramco said in a statement to reporters that it had "controlled a limited fire this morning at the Shaybah NGL facility,” which produces about one million barrels of crude oil a day, after the drone attack. "There were no injuries and no interruptions to Saudi Aramco’s oil operations.”
However, Saudi authorities have a habit of playing down such attacks which have later turned out to have caused major damages.
In May, an assault by Yemeni drones targeting the kingdom's crucial East-West Pipeline, a 1,200-kilometer (746-mile) link between its eastern oil fields and the Red Sea, were initially dispelled by Saudi officials as minor incident.
The attack on the Shaybah oil field again shows the reach of Yemen’s drone program as Shaybah sits only a few kilometers (miles) from the kingdom's border with the United Arab Emirates. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been in a yearslong, bloody war against Yemen.
The oil field at Shaybah is in the Arabian Peninsula's Empty Quarter, a sea of sand where temperatures routinely hit 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Saudi Aramco on its website refers to the field as "the most remote treasure on Earth," home to reserves of 14.3 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet.
The site is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Yemen, demonstrating the range of the country’s drones. UN investigators say Yemen’s new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi war, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles). That puts Saudi oil fields, an under-construction Emirati nuclear power plant and Dubai's busy international airport within their range.
Yemeni fighters have used drones, which can be difficult to track by radar, to attack Saudi Patriot missile batteries, as well as enemy troops.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched their war against Yemen in March 2015 to back a former regime which resigned and then fled to Riyadh. The UAE recently began withdrawing troops from the conflict while UAE-allied militants recently seized the city of Aden, further complicating a war seen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Saudi warplanes fired flares over the city of Aden, in southern Yemen, at dawn Saturday near camps occupied by southern separatists who last weekend took over most of the Aden, a blow to Saudi Arabia to overtake all of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia renewed a call overnight for UAE-backed militants to withdraw from all sites they had recently captured in Aden. The war has been in military stalemate for years.
The separatist Southern Transitional Council said that its fighters had already moved away from the presidential palace and the central bank, and were vacating other institutions. They said the forces would not leave the military camps that give them effective control of the city.
"We will not retreat, we will not budge, and planes will not scare us,” one of the groups fighting as part of the southern separatists said in a statement issued on Saturday in response to the flares and low-flying warplanes.
The Houthi fighters and their allies in the Yemeni army have escalated cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent months. The oil field attack comes a day after Sare’e said Yemen fighters launched drone attacks on the international airport in Abha, Saudi Arabia, halting air traffic.
The Saudi authorities did not immediately comment on the reported attacks or disruption to traffic at the airport, which is about 95 miles from the Yemen border.
The drone and missile attacks are Yemen’s retaliation for Saudi airstrikes on Sana’a and other mostly urban centers in the war-torn country.
The Saudi bombings are complicating United Nations-led efforts to ease tensions in order to pave the way for talks to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
The Aden crisis has also exposed strains in the so-called Saudi coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the Riyadh-backed regime. The separatists are backed by the United Arab Emirates, a member of the coalition.