Washington (CNN) – The United States is stepping up assistance to a Saudi-led coalition trying to drive out Iranian-backed rebels that have taken over the U.S.-supported government of Yemen.
U.S. tankers have begun to help refuel Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirate fighter jets bombing the Houthi rebels, the Pentagon said Wednesday. The U.S. has also expedited munitions deliveries and set out circumstances in which it would share intelligence with the Saudi military.
The moves come as intensified Saudi attacks have hit several civilian targets but have not seemed to significantly loosen the hold of the rebel group. The U.S. has shied away from direct military involvement but now seems to be providing assistance just short of that.
U.S. officials said the new provisions should not be seen as increasing the scope of the U.S. role in the mission,however, as the Pentagon has been fielding requests from the coalition since the operation began. As the campaign has advanced and more targets identified, and more military assets used, the U.S. has needed to increase the tempo of assistance, officials said. The Obama administration continues to maintain that U.S. ground forces won’t be deployed.
The Pentagon declined to specify exactly how many planes were re-fueled Wednesday but indicated the operation would be ongoing.