Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

Yemen forces push towards Hodeida as death toll mounts

President Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House in March President Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House in March
Kenny Thornton | 10 November, 2018, 20:34

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

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has attracted the ire of US lawmakers in the wake of the October 2 killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The U.S.is providing the Saudis with intelligence and aerial refueling for Saudi warplanes, and has sought to give more training to Saudi pilots to avoid killing civilians.

"I've been calling for this for over three years", said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.

"From everything that I've understood, from activists on the ground, from people who are briefed on policy, the war could not continue without the assistance of United States refueling", he said.

Norway said on Friday it was freezing all defence material export licences to Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen.

Any coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to halt refueling could be an attempt by both countries to forestall further action by Congress.

Senators Todd Young, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, had warned the Trump administration was running out of time to act.

"If the administration does not take immediate steps. we are prepared to take additional action when the Senate comes back into session", Young and Shaheen said.

The United States, France and Britain - all veto-wielding council members - support the coalition in its campaign, launched in 2015, to restore the internationally-recognized government in Yemen but the heavy civilian toll has raised concerns.

After Khashoggi murder, Saudi Arabia tortured and killed another journalist
Khashoggi went missing on October 2 after entering the consulate to obtain documents for marriage procedures. Mr Khashoggi was killed by Saudi officials inside the country's consulate in Istanbul last month.

"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", Mattis said, adding that the U.S. will continue to work to minimise civilian casualties.

The coalition is supporting the Yemeni troops on the ground with fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters, he told AFP.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE view the war as a means to limit Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula.

American officials earlier said Saudi forces now handled some 80 per cent of their refuelling operations, which crucially allow aircraft to fly longer sorties over possible targets and can ease the pressure for quick strikes.

The refueling change does not affect the US military assistance and training to improve the Saudi airstrikes, which have reportedly caused thousands of civilian deaths.

Mattis also argued it would embolden the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and targeted commercial and military vessels off Yemen's coast.

"It's clear the administration is finally beginning to recognize that it faces insurmountable opposition to continuing to fuel the war in Yemen", Win Without War said in a statement. US officials told Reuters only a fifth of Saudi-led coalition aircraft require in-air refueling from the United States.

In recent weeks, Mattis has appeared to voice a growing sense of urgency toward ending the conflict. 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.

"The U.S. and the coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country's borders, and contribute to counter al-Qaida and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region", U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

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