USA to halt refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft

James Mattis

Aid groups warned of the plight of civilians in Yemen's contested Hudaida where casualties are mounting as the Saudi-led coalition are fighting to take the port city from the country's Shia rebels.

"As a result, in consultation with the United States, the coalition has requested cessation of support for it's operations in Yemen", the SPA said.

There has been an worldwide 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.

Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told Norwegian news agency NTB on Friday that the move was temporary until "a comprehensive assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the region and the unsettling situation in Yemen" is completed.

The decision came after a request from the coalition members for a cessation of United States refueling as they have increased their own independent capabilities to refuel aircraft inflight, the coalition said.

Miliband was referring to US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's call on all participants in the Yemen civil war to agree to a ceasefire "in the next 30 days", last month.

Mattis in August noted that USA support was conditioned on a Saudi commitment to doing "everything humanly possible" to avoid any loss of innocent life and Riyadh supporting a UN-brokered peace process to end the civil war.

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

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Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Houthis in 2015.

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.

The Iran-backed rebels said their fighters had cut off government supply routes in four sectors of Hodeida province, although there was no confirmation from the loyalist side.

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.

Almost 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of starvation. The death toll has not been updated in years, however, and is likely to be far higher.

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.

The rebels have controlled Hodeida since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and then swept through much of the rest of the country triggering Saudi-led military intervention the following year and a devastating war of attrition.

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