US steps up support for war in Yemen

WASHINGTON: The United States has more than doubled the number of its military staff “providing intelligence, munitions and midair refueling” for Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes on Yemen.

The number of so-called American advisors working at joint military operations centers in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has risen from 20 to 45, The Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

In addition, US warships have also helped enforce a naval blockade in the Gulf of Aden and southern Arabian Sea.

US officials stress the sea cordon is intended to prevent weapons shipments to Ansarullah fighters.

However, human rights groups say the blockade has hindered imports of basic commodities, including food and fuel, to the impoverished nation.

Saudi Arabia launched its military onslaught against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an effort to undermine Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, whose fighters had forced the US-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, into exile.

A US special operations team was deployed at al-Anad, the country’s largest airbase, to collect intelligence and launch drone strikes in southern Yemen, until it was driven out in March as Ansarullah fighters advanced.

American officials said last week that they will not deploy the team back to Yemen until Hadi, the fugitive former president, is restored to power.

The humanitarian situation has become critical in Yemen, with many international aid organizations seeking a safe passage into the country to supply medical and humanitarian supplies to the most affected people.

Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report that the Saudi airstrikes have mostly pounded populated areas with no identifiable military targets nearby, leaving a “bloody trail of civilian death.”

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