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Ends refueling of Saudi planes

Ends refueling of Saudi planes

The Saudi and UAE-led war in Yemen has caused increasing global unease after high-profile coalition air strikes that have killed scores of civilians, many of them children.

Earlier in the day, Saudi media reported that the coalition had requested the United States to halt aerial refuelling of the coalition's aircraft, specifying that the decision had been made following consultations with Washington.

The Pentagon said late Friday the USA would no longer refuel planes for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen, suggesting the Trump administration may be taking concrete steps to end support for the controversial war amid continued reports of high civilian casualties.

"Recently, the Kingdom and the Coalition increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refuelling in Yemen". "The U.S. will also continue working with the coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country".

The refueling change does not affect the US military assistance and training to improve the Saudi airstrikes, which have reportedly caused thousands of civilian deaths.

A foreign ministry spokesman declined to say whether the decision was partly motivated by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Mattis said: "We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

Nor will it alone change the trajectory of Yemen's war, they said, or its growing humanitarian crisis, which now includes more than 14 million people on the brink of starvation, more than half of Yemen's population.

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

In the past 24 hours, fighting claimed the lives of 27 rebels and 12 pro-government fighters on the outskirts of Hodeida city, a medical source told AFP on Wednesday.

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.

Mr Mattis last month made a surprise call for a ceasefire in Yemen and urged warring parties to enter negotiations within the next 30 days.

Almost 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

A week of intense fighting for Hodeida has left hundreds of combatants dead as government forces advance into the rebel-held port city.

United Nations agencies say some 14 million people are at risk of famine in the country - described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with the World Food Programme saying it will almost double food aid to the country to avert "mass starvation".

However, a halt to refuelling could have little practical effect on the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.