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Saudi-led coalition in Yemen requests end to United States refueling

10 November 2018

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

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis expressed his country's support for the Saudi decision and suggested a continuing role for the US in Yemen with regard to helping coalition forces minimise civilian casualities and expanding humanitarian efforts.

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

The United States is halting refuelling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition engaged in Yemen, ending one of the most divisive aspects of U.S. assistance to the Saudi war effort.

The move, announced by the coalition on Saturday and confirmed by Washington, comes at a time when Riyadh, already under scrutiny for civilian deaths in Yemen air strikes, is facing global furore and potential sanctions over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate on October 2.

Saudi Arabia has a fleet of 23 planes for refuelling operations, including six Airbus 330 MRTT used for Yemen, while the United Arab Emirates has six of the Airbus planes, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya al-Hadath channel reported on Saturday.

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

Still, a halt to refueling could by itself have little practical effect on the war.

The Pentagon would not confirm the Post's story.

Despite this, and amid widespread calls from citizens and human rights groups, few Western countries have actually suspended arms agreements with the Saudi government.

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The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of targeting hospitals, water infrastructure, and other civilian targets, and raids on wedding parties and the recent bombing of a school bus have sparked worldwide condemnation.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels since 2015, in an attempt to restore that government to power.

United Nations bodies warn that an all-out attack on the Red Sea port, an entry point for 80 percent of Yemen's food imports and aid relief, could trigger a starvation in the impoverished country.

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.

Saudi strikes have hit public markets, hospitals and other nonmilitary targets, killing scores of civilians.

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.

Mattis acknowledged "continued bipartisan interest from Congress", and said the Trump administration is "appreciative of the continued dialogue we have had with key members on this issue".

Yemeni pro-government forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition fighter jets and attack helicopters, have launched an offensive on the rebel-held port city of Hodeida despite warnings from aid groups that civilians are at risk.

However, Griffiths' effort to revive peace talks in September fell through after the Houthis failed to attend, arguing they didn't have guarantees for their safe return.

Saudi-led coalition in Yemen requests end to United States refueling