Saudi Arabia said two of its oil pumping stations were hit by drone attacks on Tuesday, heightening concerns about the security of the kingdom’s energy infrastructure 48 hours after two of its tankers were struck.  Yemeni Houthi rebels aligned with Tehran claimed responsibility for the assault on the stations, which came amid escalating tensions between the US, its Arab allies and Iran.  Saudi officials said Tuesday’s attacks caused limited damage. But a spokesman for the militants told al-Masirah, a Houthi-run television station, the group was “capable of carrying out qualitative operations on a larger scale deep inside aggressor countries”.

Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said the attacks on the pumping stations “prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran”.  The Houthis, who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s four-year war, have previously used drones and missiles to strike targets in the kingdom and in the Red Sea.

Washington and Riyadh accuse Tehran of smuggling arms to the Houthis, including missiles and drones. Iran denies the allegations.  European diplomats warned the US and Iran this week against igniting a conflict “by accident”.  Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two of its tankers were hit in an attack on four vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have provided few details about the nature of those attacks, nor apportioned blame. They occurred near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway through which almost a third of the globe’s seaborne oil passes.

Following Tuesday’s drone strikes, Riyadh said oil production and exports from the kingdom were continuing without disruptions. Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, rose $1.09 to $71.32 a barrel.

The US said last week it was deploying an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the region, citing “escalatory” action by Iran. US officials have not provided specifics. Iran has denied any involvement in the attacks.