US halts refueling support as Saudi-backed forces push Yemen offensive

Published November 11, 2018, 2:45 AM

by Francine Ciasico

By Agence France-Presse

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen halted a controversial refueling arrangement with the US on Saturday, as Riyadh-backed troops took the main hospital in the strategic port city of Hodeida.

Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida on November 9, 2018, in readiness to push into the strategic rebel-held port city (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida on November 9, 2018, in readiness to push into the strategic rebel-held port city (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The suspension of US assistance to re-fuel coalition aircraft comes as Washington’s backing of the war effort faces increased scrutiny following international outrage over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder last month in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

US Democrats, buoyed by a string of midterm election victories, have sought to curtail Washington’s military support to Saudi Arabia and demanded greater oversight of a conflict dubbed by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

But in an apparent face-saving move, Saudi Arabia sought to project the decision to end in-flight refuelling as its own, not Washington’s.

“Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen,” the official Saudi Press Agency said early Saturday.

“As a result, in consultation with the United States, the coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen.”

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said he supported Saudi Arabia’s “decision”.

The grinding Saudi-led war in Yemen has caused growing international unease, after a string of high-profile coalition strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children.

Saturday’s announcement comes as forces loyal to the Saudi and Emirati-backed government push a renewed offensive to capture the rebel-held port of Hodeida, the point of entry for nearly all UN-supervised aid, despite warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.

 
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