United States to stop refueling planes in Yemen war


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

U.S. officials told Reuters only a fifth of Saudi-led coalition aircraft require in-air refuelling from the United States.

The Saudi-led coalition that is bombing Yemen has asked for the "cessation of inflight refueling support" from the United States, a statement from the Saudi press agency said on Saturday.

Riyadh's grinding war in Yemen as caused growing worldwide outcry, particularly after a string of high-profile coalition strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children.

"Recently, the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capacity to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen", the SPA said.

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

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

The World Health Organization estimates almost 10,000 people have been killed since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened after Hadi fled into exile.

In the past 24 hours, fighting claimed the lives of 27 rebels and 12 pro-government fighters on the outskirts of Hodeida city, a medical source told AFP on Wednesday.

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Their chief has vowed his troops would never surrender despite being vastly outnumbered, shelled government positions in the south of the Red Sea city, loyalist officials said.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened on the side of the government the following year.

Mr Mattis last month made a surprise call for a ceasefire in Yemen and urged warring parties to enter negotiations within the next 30 days.

According to the United Nations, some 14 million Yemeni people - fully half the country's population - are dependent on food aid for their survival, and more than 400,000 children are suffering from serious malnutrition.

Human rights groups say the real death toll could be five times as high.

The United Nations has now pushed that deadline back to the end of the year.

The change comes at a time of global outrage over the murder of USA -based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after Democratic and Republican lawmakers threatened to take action in Congress next week over the refueling operations.

Hodeida port is crucial for aid delivery and food imports to Yemen, where starvation looms over 14 million people and a child dies every 10 minutes from easily preventable diseases, according to the UN. He told them cutting off support could jeopardize cooperation on counter-terrorism and reduce American influence with Saudi Arabia.