Saudi coali­tion in Ye­men ends US re­fu­el­ing

The Philippine Star - - WORLD NEWS -

DUBAI (AP) — The Saudi Ara­bia-led coali­tion fight­ing in Ye­men early yes­ter­day said it had “re­quested ces­sa­tion of in­flight re­fu­el­ing” by the United States for its fighter jets af­ter Amer­i­can of­fi­cials said they would stop the op­er­a­tions amid grow­ing anger over civil­ian ca­su­al­ties from the king­dom’s air strikes.

The de­ci­sion by the US to pull out also comes amid out­rage by US law­mak­ers from both po­lit­i­cal par­ties over the Oct. 2 killing of The Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist Ja­mal Khashoggi at the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

The Saudi ac­knowl­edg­ment, and later US com­ments, ap­peared aimed at sug­gest­ing the king­dom was be­hind the de­ci­sion. Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, who launched the Ye­men war as the king­dom’s de­fense min­is­ter in March 2015, faces wide­spread in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism for the war and af­ter mem­bers of his en­tourage al­legedly took part in Khashoggi’s slay­ing.

“We sup­port the de­ci­sion by the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia, af­ter con­sul­ta­tions with the US gov­ern­ment, to use the coali­tion’s own mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties to con­duct in­flight re­fu­el­ing in sup­port of its op­er­a­tions in Ye­men,” US De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis said in a state­ment.

“The US will also con­tinue work­ing with the coali­tion and Ye­men to min­i­mize civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and ex­pand ur­gent hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts through­out the coun­try,” he added.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what im­pact the US with­drawal from air re­fu­el­ing op­er­a­tions would have. Amer­i­can of­fi­cials ear­lier said Saudi forces now han­dled some 80 per­cent of their re­fu­el­ing op­er­a­tions, which cru­cially al­low air­craft to fly longer sor­ties over pos­si­ble tar­gets and can ease the pres­sure for quick strikes.

Yet, even with that re­fu­el­ing sup­port, Saudi Ara­bia has faced wide­spread in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism over its cam­paign of air strikes in the coali­tion’s war in Ye­men, tar­get­ing Shi­ite rebels known as Houthis who hold the cap­i­tal, Sanaa.

Saudi strikes have hit pub­lic mar­kets, hospi­tals and other non­mil­i­tary tar­gets, killing scores of civil­ians. One such Saudiled air strike in Au­gust in Ye­men’s Saada prov­ince hit a bus and killed dozens of peo­ple, in­clud­ing school­child­ren wear­ing back­packs.

Hu­man rights groups have found frag­ments of Amer­i­can-made mu­ni­tions af­ter sev­eral of th­ese strikes.

US of­fi­cials, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity on Fri­day to dis­cuss the de­ci­sion be­fore its an­nounce­ment, said the end to re­fu­el­ing would not stop Amer­i­can train­ing and mil­i­tary as­sis­tance.

AP

In this file photo, a man stands among the rub­ble of the Al­sonidar Group’s wa­ter pump and pipe fac­tory af­ter it was hit by Saudi Ara­bia-led air strikes in Sanaa, Ye­men.

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