United States to stop refueling planes in Yemen war


The move comes amid an ongoing global outcry over Saudi actions in Yemen, particularly after a string of high-profile coalition strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children. USA officials told Reuters only a fifth of Saudi-led coalition aircraft require in-air refueling from the United States.

Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition that has been fighting the Huthi rebels since 2015 to shore up the internationally recognised government, is active nearly daily in Yemen.

The Pentagon said late Friday the US would no longer refuel planes for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen, suggesting the Trump administration may be taking concrete steps to end support for the controversial war amid continued reports of high civilian casualties.

Beyond refuelling, the United States provides limited intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen's war. "We shouldn't be supporting coalition war crimes, and I look forward to continuing to scrutinize the U.S.'s role in Yemen when we're in the majority next Congress".

The statement from the Saudi press agency follows U.S. media reports that the United States was to end the deal.

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

Germany said last month that it would halt German arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the killing of Khashoggi was explained.

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

Following the USA shift, Britain began work on drafting a resolution that would provide for a ceasefire, humanitarian access and UN-sponsored talks on ending the war.

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

Hodeidah has become a key battleground in the war in which the coalition intervened in 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government ousted by the Houthis.

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

The intensified battle for Hodeida comes despite Pentagon chief James Mattis calling last month for a ceasefire and negotiations between Yemen´s warring parties within 30 days.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of forces against Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen, in a conflict that has driven much of Yemen's population to the brink of starvation.

The World Health Organisation estimates almost 10,000 people have been killed since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's war against the Houthis, driving the insurgents from the Red Sea coastline but failing to retake Hodeida.

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

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".

Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the U.S., which views it as a counter to Iranian influence in the region.

Meanwhile, Yemeni government forces backed by the coalition have launched a major offensive to retake the rebel-held city of Hodeidah.