Mattis Supports Riyadh's Refusal of US Refuelling of Coalition Aircraft in Yemen

Trump blames Yemen school bus bombing on Saudis not knowing how to use U.S.-supplied weapons

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.

"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the USA government, to use the coalition's own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen", Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement late Friday night.

"Recently the Kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen", the SPA said.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis confirmed that the decision to stop refueling was taken in consultation with the USA government.

Earlier in the day, Saudi media reported that the coalition had requested the United States to halt aerial refuelling of the coalition's aircraft, specifying that the decision had been made following consultations with Washington.

Hodeidah, a large city on Yemen's Red Sea coast, is the latest battleground between the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE alliance which has been fighting for control over the country for the past three and a half years.

"We support the decision by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia", he said.

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Currently, the Pentagon provides refueling capabilities for about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen. "We are now warning that by allowing this to go on, parties to the conflict and their global backers will be responsible for the death, injury and suffering of millions of people".

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.

Yemeni government forces backed by the coalition pressed farther into Hodeida, seizing its main hospital in heavy fighting on Saturday, as they shrugged off the end to United States refuelling support. He said that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were taking adequate measures to minimize civilian deaths.

"Trump and his administration clearly prefer to continue this devastating war because of the economic returns it produces - they drool over those arms sales profits", al-Houthi added.

The United Nations has since pushed that deadline back to the end of the year. United Nations special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has said he is consulting with Yemen's warring parties to finalize details for a new round of peace talks.

Fears for the safety of civilians have been rising since loyalist forces renewed an operation to take the city, which has been under the control of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2014.

The World Health Organization estimates almost 10,000 people have been killed since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened after Hadi fled into exile.

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