Bennett issues rare statement condemning Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia

The strikes are "further proof that Iran’s regional aggression knows no bounds," Bennett wrote.

 Smoke billows from a Saudi Aramco's petroleum storage facility after an attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 26, 2022. (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
Smoke billows from a Saudi Aramco's petroleum storage facility after an attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 26, 2022.
(photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday condemned the latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia in a tweet, saying "the State of Israel expresses its sorrow to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the horrific attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis."

The attacks are "further proof that Iran’s regional aggression knows no bounds," Bennett wrote, adding that it "reinforces the concern of Iran’s IRGC being removed from the FTO list."

While Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, have stressed that the kingdom would be open to normalizing relations if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is resolved. Israeli flights to and from the United Arab Emirates and beyond are permitted to fly through Saudi airspace.

Yemen's Houthis said they launched attacks on Saudi energy facilities on Friday and the Saudi-led coalition said oil giant Aramco's petroleum products distribution station in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah was hit, causing a fire in two storage tanks, but no casualties.

Followers of the Houthi movement carry a mock drone during a rally held to mark the Ashura in Saada, Yemen, September 10, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/NAIF RAHMA)Followers of the Houthi movement carry a mock drone during a rally held to mark the Ashura in Saada, Yemen, September 10, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/NAIF RAHMA)

The Iran-aligned Houthis have escalated attacks on the kingdom's oil facilities in recent weeks and ahead of a temporary truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Bennett's statement comes as the US is reportedly considering removing Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list in an attempt to salvage stalled nuclear talks with Iran. The reports have sparked outrage from Gulf and Israeli officials, with Bennett stressing recently that such a move is "too high a price" for a return to the JCPOA nuclear deal.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on Saturday set the Iran-aligned group Houthis a three-hour deadline to withdraw weapons from the airport of Sanaa and from two ports on the Red Sea, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported.

Retaining weapons in the Yemeni capital's airport and the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef would "end their status" as safe regions not to be targeted by coalition airstrikes, it said, without saying exactly at what time the deadline would expire.

The coalition said earlier on Saturday it was carrying out airstrikes on Sanaa and Hodeidah in reaction to Houthi attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government in late 2014.

The conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed tens of thousands of people and has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

Yemen's Houthi group said on Saturday it was suspending missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia for three days, in a peace initiative it said could be a lasting commitment if the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen stopped air strikes and lifted port restrictions.

The group also announced a three-day suspension of ground offensive operations in Yemen, including in the gas-producing region of Marib, said Mahdi al-Mashat, the head of the Houthis' political office, in a speech broadcast on television.

Mashat said the group was ready to release all prisoners, including the brother of Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.