Yemen president sacks defence and army chiefs amid Hodeida offensive

Leroy Wright
November 11, 2018

The Saudi and UAE-led war in Yemen has caused growing worldwide unease after high-profile coalition air strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children. Only a fifth of coalition aircraft require in-air refuelling from the United States, U.S. officials said.

Saudi Arabia, in a statement released by its embassy in Washington on Friday (local time), said it had made a decision to request an end to United States aerial refuelling for its operations in Yemen because it could now handle it by itself.

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.

Beyond refuelling, the United States provides limited intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen's war. "The U.S. will also continue working with the coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country".

Earlier this year, Mattis had defended U.S. military support to Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen, when lawmakers weighed forcing the Pentagon to end Washington's involvement.

Opposition to United States collaboration with the Saudi coalition in Yemen has increased following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Critics of the Saudi campaign - including Democrats who won control of the House of Representatives in elections on Tuesday - have long questioned U.S. involvement in the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and led to widespread starvation in Yemen since it began in 2015.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in August warned that USA support for the coalition was "not unconditional", noting it must do "everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life".

Government forces have pressed further into the strategic port city, seizing its main hospital in heavy fighting Saturday, as they try to advance on Hodeida's vital docks Hodeida has been controlled by the Houthis since 2014, when the rebels seized the capital Sanaa and a string of port cities.

AFP reported that 132 people had been killed in Hodeidah in 24 hours of violence, including at least 47 Houthi fighters.

More than 400 combatants have been killed in 10 days of clashes in Hodeida, a city on Yemen's Red Sea coastline that is home to the impoverished country's most valuable port.

According to the United Nations, some 14 million Yemeni people - fully half the country's population - are dependent on food aid for their survival, and more than 400,000 children are suffering from serious malnutrition.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a devastating air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The US sees Saudi Arabia as a key ally, especially in terms of providing a counter to Iranian influence in the region.

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