Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Mattis Supports Riyadh's Refusal of US Refuelling of Coalition Aircraft in Yemen

Mattis Supports Riyadh's Refusal of US Refuelling of Coalition Aircraft in Yemen

The United States is halting refueling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition engaged in Yemen, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia said on Friday, ending one of the most divisive aspects of USA assistance to the Saudi war effort.

There has been an global outcry over Saudi actions in Yemen, particularly after a series of high-profile coalition strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended USA military support to Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen, when lawmakers weighed forcing the Pentagon to end Washington's involvement in the conflict.

Earlier in the day, Saudi media reported that the coalition had requested the United States to halt aerial refuelling of the coalition's aircraft, specifying that the decision had been made following consultations with Washington.

It was taken after "a broad assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the unclear situation in Yemen", the ministry said.

Earlier this year, Mr Mattis had defended United States military support to Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen, when politicians considered forcing the Pentagon to end Washington's involvement.

The Pentagon has provided refueling capabilities for about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations, and the Huthis in 2015.

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The Shiite Huthi rebels on Friday launched fierce barrages of mortar fire as they battled to slow an advance by pro-government forces deeper into the port city of Hodeida, military sources said.

In recent days, fighting intensified with troops trained by the United Arab Emirates, a coalition member, advanced in eastern Hodeida, pushing toward the city's port and key Red Sea facilities, some 5 kilometres (3 miles) away.

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.

Almost 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of starvation. The experts documented 6,475 deaths from March 2015 until last June, but said the real figure is likely to be significantly higher.

United Nations agencies say some 14 million people are at risk of famine in the country - described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with the World Food Programme saying it will almost double food aid to the country to avert "mass starvation".

Global criticism of USA support for Saudi Arabia grew further following the killing of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Saudi statement on Saturday said the kingdom hoped the upcoming UN-sponsored talks "in a third country" - which have since been delayed till the end of the year - would help end the war.

He told them cutting off support could jeopardise cooperation on counter-terrorism and reduce American influence with Saudi Arabia.

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