Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Oriana Pawlyk / Military.com & Stephanie Nebehay / Reuters – 2017-02-15 00:54:18
US Continues to Increase Involvement
In Saudi Air War in Yemen
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(February 14, 2017) — The US doesn’t necessarily like to brag about their involvement in the Saudi invasion of Yemen, given the massive civilian death toll of the Saudi airstrikes and the growing international disquiet about the humanitarian crisis the war has led to. Still, US involvement is increasing, not decreasing.
New data from the Air Force showed a 50% increase in the number of in-air refueling sorties US planes have flown in the past year, over the first year of the war, with officials confirming over 7,500 “refueling events” with Saudi planes, transferring 54 million pounds of fuel.
This has been common in US-backed air wars, as the US has much more in-air refueling capacity than other nations. The refueling allows Saudi warplanes to remain in the air over Yemen much longer without going back to refuel, letting them launch more strikes.
All of this just adds to American complicity in the massive number of civilians the Saudi airstrikes have killed, which was already a problem because the Saudis were flying American-made planes and dropping American-made bombs. That the US is also directly fueling the planes just further undercuts the claims the US is trying to broker peace in Yemen.
Two Years Into Yemen War, US
Ramps Up Refueling of Saudi Jets
Oriana Pawlyk / Military.com
(February 15, 2017) — Saudi Arabian coalition jets bombing Houthi rebel sites in Yemen increasingly turn to US Air Force tankers for refueling support almost two years after the conflict began.
Since April 2015, the Air Force has logged 1,778 tanker sorties for the operation, Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com on Tuesday. That includes 1,069 over the past year, an increase of 360, or 50 percent, from the 709 in the previous period.
“These operations are ongoing, with aircraft refueling occurring daily,” Atanasoff said in an email.
The service’s tankers such as KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders participated in 7,564 refueling “events” with coalition aircraft, with “about 54 million pounds of fuel off-loaded in support of Saudi operations in Yemen,” Atanasoff said.
Refueling numbers are tracked by the command but, unlike statistics on strikes and sorties against the Islamic State and the Taliban, aren’t publicly released via the command’s airpower summary factsheets.
The Air Force’s involvement with Saudi airstrikes in Yemen drew scrutiny in October after one hit a funeral hall packed with mourners in Sanaa, killing more than 150 people and wounding hundreds, according to The New York Times. The incident prompted the US to launch an immediate review of its support operations for the Saudi-led coalition, the Times reported.
US Central Command officials have said the US provides only refueling support to Saudi coalition aircraft. “We have not provided any kind of intel to carry out strikes,” Maj. Josh Jacques, media chief at CentCom, told Military.com at the time.
According to The Yemen Data Project, an independent body of researchers, academics and human rights advocates, more than 8,600 air attacks occurred between March 2015 and August 2016 in Yemen — with more than 3,150 hitting non-military locations, as cited by The Guardian.
Saudi Arabia disputes the claims as “vastly exaggerated,” The Guardian reported in September.
The war first made headlines in spring 2015, when Houthi rebels — anti-government fighters aligned with ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh — were dislodged from their position near the port city of Aden by the coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait.
Despite the US’s quiet role in the war, it has become a target of critics, according to William Picard, executive director of The Yemen Peace Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 in response to the growing humanitarian crisis.
“US refueling missions have become a focal point for those who oppose America’s involvement in this war,” Picard said Tuesday in a statement to Military.com.
“The Yemen Peace Project is part of a large coalition of US-based and international advocacy organizations calling for an end to US logistical and material support for the Saudi-led intervention,” he said.
“The US has been, and continues to be, a crucial participant in the UN-sponsored peace process,” Picard said. “Its military role in the conflict undermines that process and perpetuates hostilities. This war is driving one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world.”
Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.
Saudi-led Coalition Strikes
Yemeni Port, Civilians at Risk
Stephanie Nebehay / Reuters
GENEVA (February 10, 2017) — The Saudi-led coalition has intensified air strikes on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, possibly trapping civilians and hampering a humanitarian operation to import vital food and fuel supplies, the United Nations said on Friday.
Earlier this week, Yemeni government forces backed by Gulf Arab troops recaptured control of the Red Sea city of al-Mokha in a push that paved the way for an advance on Hodeidah, the country’s main port city.
“Civilians were trapped and targeted during the al-Mokha fighting,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in a statement. “There are real fears that the situation will repeat itself in the port of Hodeidah where air strikes are already intensifying.”
He said possible war crimes had been documented with “alarming frequency” since the conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels backed by Iran erupted almost two years ago.
A UN statement expressed concerns civilians in al-Mokha had been deliberately targeted by the rebel-linked gunmen during the battle for control of the port.
“Credible reports indicate that Houthi-affiliated snipers shot at families attempting to flee their homes in Houthi-controled areas,” the statement said.
As the fighting shifted along the coast, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that civilians were already caught up in the fighting in Hodeidah, as well as in the towns of Taiz and Dhubab.
The aid agency pressed called for civilians to be allowed to leave for safer areas, and called for the wounded to be given access to medical care, in line with international law.
“We stand ready to deliver much needed aid to the civilian population,” said Robert Mardini, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East.
Across Yemen, some 12 million people, roughly half the population, face the threat of famine and conditions are worsening, the United Nations warned on Wednesday as it appealed for $2.1 billion to fund food and other life-saving aid.
Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said the destruction of five cranes in Hodeidah port had forced dozens of vessels to line up offshore.
“We’re trying to bring in four new mobile cranes to support the Hodeidah port, to try to ease the congestion there. That’s something that we’re in negotiation with Riyadh right now,” McGoldrick said.
(Editing by Tom Miles and Richard Lough)
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