RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia is temporarily halting all oil shipments going through an important Red Sea waterway, accusing Iran-allied rebels of attacking two crude tankers on Wednesday.
Stopping crude shipments through the Bab el-Mandeb strait — which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden — marks another escalation in the war between an Arab military coalition and Houthi rebels for control of Yemen. Saudi Arabia is attempting to ramp up oil exports amid an effort to keep the world well-supplied with oil as the U.S. squeezes Riyadh’s rival, Iran, with new sanctions that could reduce its oil exports.
Saudi Arabia said the Houthis attacked two very large crude carriers operated by Saudi National Shipping Corp. in the Red Sea on Wednesday. One of the ships sustained minimal damage. No injuries nor oil spill have been reported, according to an emailed statement from the kingdom.
Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said all oil exports through the southern Red Sea would be halted “until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab el-Mandeb is safe.”