US halting refuelling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen's war

Blanche Robertson
November 10, 2018

In statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Saturday, Saudi Arabia said the decision to end aerial support for the coalition was made in consultation with the US.

In turn, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis voiced support on Friday for the Saudi decision to end US in-flight refueling of Saudi-led coalition planes, adding that Washington will continue helping the Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni forces minimize civilian casualties in the war-torn country.

The decision was made amid mounting criticism of the three-year-old Yemen conflict and Saudi-led coalition air strikes that a United Nations human rights panel said is responsible for scores of civilian deaths, often using US-supplied munitions.

In August, Mattis warned that U.S. support for the coalition was "not unconditional", urging it to do "everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life".

Beyond refuelling, the United States provides limited intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen's war.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi appointed a new defence minister to fill a role that had been empty for several years, naming Mohammed al-Maqdishi for the post, according to the state SABA news agency late Wednesday.

In the past 24 hours, 27 Iran-backed Houthi rebels and 12 pro-government fighters have been killed on the outskirts of Hodeidah city, a medical source told AFP on Wednesday.

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Save the Children reported nearly 100 air strikes - five times as many as in the whole first week of October - at the weekend.

Apparently in a rush to try to take Hodeida before then, coalition artillery, helicopter gunships and airstrikes have pounded the rebels, with dozens killed on both sides.

The World Health Organization estimates almost 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's war since 2015, although rights groups say the toll could be five times higher.

David Miliband, who is a former British foreign secretary and member of parliament, said while the journalist's death was tragic, global focus on Khashoggi's murder should be switched to actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, where millions of lives are affected.

The human rights group said the Houthi militia recently stationed fighters on the roof of a hospital in the May 22 district of the Red Sea port city, calling the action a "stomach-churning development".

The US sees Saudi Arabia as a key ally, especially in terms of providing a counter to Iranian influence in the region.

United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths is aiming to convene the country's warring parties for peace talks by the end of the year.

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