Saudis say oil pipeline was attacked by drones, possibly from Yemen

Pump jacks operate at sunset in an oilfield in Texas

The Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese news agency known to be well connected to Hezbollah, was the first to report the attack on the oil ships in the Persian Gulf.

Brent crude futures were up 1.7% at $71.39 a barrel.

"Recent attacks in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia are aimed at the world and not just [Saudi Arabia]", Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed that they had targeted several vital Saudi targets with drones.

Saudi and American US officials have long anxious about the Strait of Hormuz becoming a battleground should tensions with Iran break out into open conflict.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the largest and third-largest producers respectively in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The pipeline mainly transports crude from the kingdom's eastern fields to Yanbu port, which lies north of Bab al-Mandeb.

The attacks occurred amid a war of words between Washington and Tehran over sanctions and the United States military presence in the region. Although the market continues to be underpinned by the OPEC-led production cuts and the US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, concerns over the impact of the escalation of the trade dispute between the United States and China on future demand is helping to limit gains.

"Any risky slip and the region will pay a unsafe price, Iraq will pay a unsafe price", Mahdi added.

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Tuesday's attack also came amid unconfirmed reports that Houthi rebels were starting to unilaterally withdraw from the strategic Yemeni port of Hodeidah, a key condition of a December cease-fire that the United Nations and worldwide community see as a first step toward ending the war. The UAE asked the U.S. to help investigate the damage, which Gulf officials have characterised as sabotage.

Hook declined to say whether he believed Iran played a role in the attacks off Fujairah or if Pompeo blamed Iran.

Tehran meanwhile called for an investigation into Sunday's "alarming" attacks off the Emirati coast and warned of "adventurism" by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

Riyadh announced on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers have been attacked and vandalised on their way to cross the Arabian Gulf near the UAE's territorial waters about 70 miles from the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for worldwide oil shipments.

"In an environment of rising regional tensions, limited Iranian operations against the UAE and Saudi Arabia might be created to dissuade Abu Dhabi and Riyadh and signal that war with Iran will not be limited to Iranian soil", said Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. The Shiite power has an incredibly tense relationship with Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The US Embassy in the UAE advised its citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance for heightened tensions in the region. The two Saudi ships were among the four that were involved. A Saudi-based banker said that state funds were supporting local stocks to limit the downside.

After pulling out of the deal previous year, the United States began a maximalist pressure campaign against Iran.

He explained: "On Sunday, two oil tankers were hit by vandalism on their way to cross the Arabian Gulf near the UAE's exclusive economic zone, near the emirate of Fujairah".

And Iran has made frequent threats to block the Strait of Hormuz; in 2011, Tehran said "not a drop" of oil would pass through if sanctions against it were widened.

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