Sun, Nov 11, 2018 - Page 4 News List

US ends refueling support in Yemen

Reuters, WASHINGTON and CAIRO

A woman collects water from a donated water tank in Sana’a, Yemen, on Friday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Saudi Arabia and the US have agreed to end US refueling of aircraft from the Saudi Arabian-led coalition battling Houthi insurgents in Yemen, ending a divisive aspect of US support to a war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

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

The US and Britain late last month called for a ceasefire in Yemen to support UN-led efforts to end the nearly four-year long war that has killed more than 10,000 people and triggered the most urgent humanitarian crisis in the world.

“Recently, the kingdom and the coalition increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen. As a result, in consultation with the US, the coalition has requested the cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen,” the coalition said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has a fleet of 23 airplanes for refueling operations, including six Airbus 330 MRTT used for Yemen, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has six of the Airbus aircraft, the Saudi Arabian-owned al-Arabiya al-Hadath channel reported yesterday, adding that Riyadh also has nine KC-130 Hercules aircraft that can be used.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the US government was consulted on the decision, and that Washington supported the move while continuing to work with the alliance to minimize civilian casualties and expand humanitarian efforts.

Any coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh could be an attempt to forestall action threatened in the US Congress next week by lawmakers over refueling operations.

However, a halt to refueling could have little practical effect on the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Only one-fifth of the coalition aircraft require in-air refueling from the US, US officials said.

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