News ID: 234037
Published: 0258 GMT November 10, 2018
UN warns of 'dire' conditions in Hodeida

US ends refueling support in Yemen war as pressure builds on Saudi Arabia

US ends refueling support in Yemen war as pressure builds on Saudi Arabia
HANI MOHAMMED/AP
In this Oct. 14, 2016 photo, fire and smoke rise after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site in the outskirts of Yemen's capital, Sana’a.

The US and Saudi Arabia said they agreed to end US refueling of Saudi aircraft bombing Yemen as Riyadh-backed forces pushed a renewed offensive to capture the strategic port city of Hodeida despite warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The decision was announced by Saudi Arabia on Saturday and confirmed by the US 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 refueling as its own, not Washington's.

"Recently the kingdom and the coalition have increased their 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 Pentagon provided refueling capabilities for about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya al-Hadath television reported that the kingdom has 23 planes for refueling operations devoted to Yemen operations, including six Airbus 330 Multi Role Tanker transport aircraft, while the UAE has six.

But analysts said the US move would limit the coalition's ability to conduct bombing missions.

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.

 

Civilian death toll mounting

 

Airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen are on a pace to kill more civilians than last year, according to a database tracking violence in the country, despite the United States’ repeated claims that the coalition is taking precautions to prevent such bloodshed.

The database gives an indication of the scope of the disaster wreaked in Yemen by nearly four years of war. At least 57,538 people — civilians and combatants — have been killed since the beginning of 2016, according to the data assembled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED.

That doesn't include the first nine months of the war, in 2015, which the group is still analyzing.

Provided heavy weaponry by the United States and some Western states, the Saudi-led coalition has been pounding Yemen since March 2015 to restore former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

 

'Dire' conditions in Hodeida

 

Saturday's announcement came as the coalition forces pushed a renewed offensive to capture the port of Hodeida, the point of entry for nearly all UN-supervised aid, despite warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday warned that many people remained trapped in the main port city of Hodeida, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis. It also said nearly half a million people have fled the area since June.

The United States and Britain late last month called for a cease-fire in Yemen to support UN-led efforts to end the nearly four-year-long war.

“The continued escalation of attacks ... by the US-Saudi-Emirati coalition confirms that the American calls for a cease-fire are nothing but empty talk,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee, wrote in a column published by The Washington Post on Friday.

He said the cease-fire call was an attempt “to save face after the humiliation” caused by the murder of Washington Post columnist Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policy, that has strained Riyadh’s relationship with the West.

Just hours after the announcement on halting refueling support, the coalition forces captured the May 22 Hospital, the main medical facility in the city of some 600,000 people.

Fierce battles raged on Saturday in eastern sectors of Hodeida as the coalition forces backed by airstrikes and Apache helicopters sought to push deeper into the city.

Reflecting the dire humanitarian situation, updated UN figures showed some 445,000 people have been forced to flee Hodeida since June.

Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's commercial imports and practically all UN-supervised humanitarian aid pass through Hodeida's docks.

Press TV, AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to the story.

 

 

 

 

   
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