Published: Sat, November 10, 2018

U.S. to stop refueling planes in Yemen war

U.S. to stop refueling planes in Yemen war

Critics of the Saudi campaign - including Democrats who won control of the House of Representatives in elections on Tuesday - have long questioned U.S. involvement in the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and led to widespread starvation in Yemen since it began in 2015.

The coalition's request came amid the backdrop of U.S. media reports that Washington planned to cease its refuelling support to the coalition amid mounting criticism of the devastating Yemeni conflict, raging since 2015, and the killing of Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

"I call upon all free men ... to head to the fronts to defend the port city", he said in a speech aired by the Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite TV channel.

The US and United Kingdom have both been criticized for continuing to sell arms to the coalition despite their targeting of civilians and alleged war crimes.

Even as President Donald Trump's administration has condemned Khashoggi's murder, the White House has sought to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

A coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to halt the refuelling could be an attempt by both countries to forestall further action by Congress.

"Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen".

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in August warned that United States support for the coalition was "not unconditional", noting it must do "everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life".

Aid groups warned of the plight of civilians in Yemen's contested Hudaida where casualties are mounting as the Saudi-led coalition are fighting to take the port city from the country's Shia rebels.

He also suggested plans to build up Yemeni troops.

Mattis in August noted that United States support was conditioned on a Saudi commitment to doing "everything humanly possible" to avoid any loss of innocent life and Riyadh supporting a UN-brokered peace process to end the civil war.

Mattis argued that halting United States military support could increase civilian casualties, since USA refueling had given pilots more time to select their targets.

Mr. Mattis also argued it would embolden the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and targeted commercial and military vessels off Yemens coast.

The United States effectively gave a green light to the Saudi-led offensive when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on September 12 certified continued American support for the coalition's air campaign against the Houthis.

A halt to refueling could have little practical effect on the war.

In recent weeks, Mattis has appeared to voice a growing sense of urgency toward ending the conflict.

That appeal came just days after the United States, in a significant shift, piled pressure on its Saudi ally to end the war by calling for a ceasefire and peace talks.

"The Saudi-led Coalition and pro-Hadi forces, the Houthi forces â€" and those who supply arms or other support to the parties to the conflict â€" all have the power or the influence to stop the starvation and killing of civilians, to give some reprieve to the people of Yemen", Bachelet said in a statement on Saturday.

Yemen has experienced a devastating civil war, which has led to the deaths of as many of 50,000 people and pushed the country to the brink of nation-wide starvation.

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