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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.

In a statement, Secretary Mattis said: "The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country's borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region".

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

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 move comes at a time of global outrage over the murder of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after Democratic and Republican politicians threatened to take action in Congress next week over the refuelling operations. US officials told Reuters only a fifth of Saudi-led coalition aircraft require in-air refueling from the United States.

USA defense secretary Jim Mattis backed the decision and said the United States government was consulted.

Saudi King Salman hosted Abu Dhabi´s crown prince on Saturday, state media said, as a military coalition led by the two Gulf allies pushes an offensive to seize the strategic Yemeni port city of Hodeida. "We are now warning that by allowing this to go on, parties to the conflict and their global backers will be responsible for the death, injury and suffering of millions of people".

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The Iran-backed rebels said their fighters had cut off government supply routes in four sectors of Hodeida province, although there was no confirmation from the loyalist side.

Aid agencies have long warned that fighting in Hodeidah risks escalating the country's dire humanitarian crisis.

The killing of Khashoggi triggered an escalation of criticism against Saudi authorities.

The United Arab Emirates has thrown its support behind Saudi Arabia, its main ally, over the Khashoggi affair.

It also said it hoped upcoming United Nations sponsored talks "in a third country" would help end the war.

On October 30, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and James Mattis, the Pentagon chief, had called for a ceasefire within 30 days and demanded that the warring parties meet the UN's Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in Sweden. United Nations special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has said he is consulting with Yemen's warring parties to finalize details for a new round of peace talks.

Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.


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