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.

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