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US House passes resolution to end US involvement in Yemen war

Resolution on halting US military assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen was approved in 248-177 vote
Tens of thousands of people have died in Yemen since Saudi-led military offensive began in 2015 (AFP)

The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution to end Washington's support for Saudi-led forces in Yemen, a critical first step that was lauded by Democrats, who control the legislative chamber.

The legislation passed by a 248-177 vote on Wednesday afternoon, largely along partisan lines. Only 18 Republicans voted for it.

The resolution invokes the War Powers Act, in which Congress can override the president and halt US military actions in other countries. In this particular case, the legislation says that American military assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen must cease.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, praised the measure and said he and fellow senator Bernie Sanders would press the upper chamber for a vote.

Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution, similarly urged the Senate to vote on the legislation.

"This is their opportunity to send a message to the Saudis that their behavior on [Saudi journalist Jamal] Khashoggi and their flagrant disregard of human rights is not consistent with the American way of doing business and not in line with American values," he told the New York Times on Wednesday.

'Matter of human decency'

Saudi Arabia, with support from the United Arab Emirates, launched its military operation in Yemen in 2015 to root out Houthi rebels and restore President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to power.

Since the Saudi-led coalition's involvement in Yemen, tens of thousands of people have died and the country faces one of the world's worst cholera epidemics.

The US military provides intelligence and logistics support to Saudi forces, and up until recently, it was also assisting with mid-air refuelling of Saudi jets.

While the resolution passed in the House on Wednesday, Democrats acquiesced to a Republican amendment that allows US intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia to continue.

Khanna, the Democratic congressman from California, said the war in Yemen has left 14 million people on the brink of starvation.

'There's no complex foreign policy; it's a matter of human decency and this resolution will make it clear that the coalition should stop the bombing campaign and come to the table and negotiate'

- Congressman Ro Khanna

"There's no complex foreign policy; it's a matter of human decency and this resolution will make it clear that the coalition should stop the bombing campaign and come to the table and negotiate," Khanna said during a news conference in January.

Congressional efforts to end Washington’s involvement in Yemen have been seen as a sharp rebuke of the Trump administration, which insists the US must continue to provide support to Saudi Arabia.

In December, a similar bill cleared the Senate in a 56-41 vote but was blocked by the House, which was then under the control of Republicans.

Key White House officials have been under increased pressure to end the US's role in the war, as well as reevaluate its relationship with the Saudi government in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s murder.

Despite its passage, the Yemen bill still has a long road ahead before coming into effect.

It will also need to clear the Senate, before being sent to the White House for Trump to sign.

The president has vowed to veto the bill, however, meaning that it would go back to the Senate, where only a two-thirds vote can override a presidential veto.