U.S. to halt refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft

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

The US has welcomed Saudi Arabia's "decision" to cease taking American support and instead use its own military capabilities for refuelling aircraft from the Riyadh-led coalition engaged in the Yemen war.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis backed the decision and said the US Government was consulted.

The journalist went missing after visiting the Saudi Consulate in early October, while Riyadh eventually acknowledged that he had been killed inside the building.

Besides refuelling, the United States provides intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen's war.

"I've been calling for this for over three years", Californian Democrat Ted Lieu said. The US and United Kingdom have both been criticized for continuing to sell arms to the coalition despite their targeting of civilians and alleged war crimes.

Even as President Donald Trump's administration condemned Khashoggi's murder, the White House has sought to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Any co-ordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh could be an attempt to forestall action threatened in Congress next week by lawmakers over refuelling operations.

Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., had warned the Trump administration was running out of time to act. - Witnesses said the airstrike took place just before sunset as people prepared to break the dawn-to-dusk Islamic fast of Ramadan, and it was not immediately clear who had carried out the strike.

"As a result, in consultation with the United States, the coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen".

"The US will also continue working with the coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country", he said in a statement.

The coalition's request came amid the backdrop of USA media reports that Washington planned to cease its refuelling support to the coalition amid mounting criticism of the devastating Yemeni conflict, raging since 2015, and the killing of Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

Mattis argued that halting United States military support could increase civilian casualties, since USA refueling had given pilots more time to select their targets.

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.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that Riyadh had itself demanded to stop inflight refueling services by the U.S. military for its warplanes after "consultation" with the US. USA officials told Reuters only a fifth of Saudi-led coalition aircraft require in-air refueling from the United States.

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

"The continued escalation of attacks.by the U.S. -Saudi-Emirati coalition confirms that the American calls for a cease-fire are nothing but empty talk", Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the group's supreme revolutionary committee, wrote in a column published by the Washington Post on Friday.

"We feel that the current situation above all else warrants a resolution that gives both the special envoy and OCHA the support they need to take a step towards ending the conflict in Yemen and the suffering of the Yemeni people", the trio said in an email to the council seen by AFP.



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