Saudi Coalition Halts Refueling Deal With U.S. for Yemen War
RIYADH (AFP) - A controversial refueling arrangement between the United States and the Saudi-led coalition that is bombing Yemen was ended on Saturday, halting a key part of Washington’s involvement in the conflict.
The move came as warplanes pounded the key strategic port city of Hodeida and after Washington’s support for the campaign was placed under increased scrutiny following the brazen murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi intelligence team.
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said he supported Saudi Arabia’s “decision” after the official Saudi Press Agency said the coalition asked for the “cessation of inflight refueling support” from the United States.
Riyadh’s grinding war in Yemen as caused growing international outcry, particularly after a string of highprofile coalition strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children.
“Recently the Kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen,” the SPA said.
“As a result, in consultation with the United States, the coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen.”
Mattis said: “We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
In August the defense secretary warned that U.S. support for the coalition was “not unconditional,” noting it must do “everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life.”
The Pentagon had provided refueling capabilities for about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.