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US to stop refueling Saudi planes in Yemen

US to stop refueling Saudi planes in Yemen
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The Trump administration has halted its inflight refueling support for Saudi-led coalition aircraft engaged in Yemen, U.S. and Saudi officials announced Friday.

Saudi Arabia said in a statement that U.S. assistance was no longer needed because of their own advancements in refueling.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE said in a statement that Saudi Arabia made the decision to stop using U.S. capabilities "after consultations with the U.S. Government."

"We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict, led by UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths. 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 [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] efforts in Yemen and the region," Mattis said.

"The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country," he added.

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Saudi Arabia's three-year war has come under increased scrutiny recently, with refueling among the most tangible and controversial aspects of U.S. support for the kingdom in the conflict.

Lawmakers from both parties have pushed for the U.S. to suspend weapon sales to Riyadh and cut off refueling for the war, which monitoring groups say has resulted in the deaths of thousands of unarmed civilians.

The Trump administration's move to cut off refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft also comes following criticism against the kingdom over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul last month.

Khashoggi, who worked as a columnist for The Washington Post, was an outspoken critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his killing inside the consulate has led many to call for the U.S. to penalize the kingdom.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit MORE (D-Conn.) on Friday praised the Trump administration's move to stop refueling Saudi-led coalition planes, calling it "long overdue." He added in a tweet that "if refueling is a bad idea, then why still sell the Saudis the bombs and help them pick targets?"

"Time to get ALL THE WAY OUT of this moral and strategic catastrophe," he wrote. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment Sanders selling sweatshirts with his famous inauguration pose for charity Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' MORE (I-Vt.) touted legislation to end “US participation in the Yemen war as a matter of law, not simply as a matter of the president’s discretion."

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis House impeaches Trump for second time — with some GOP support Stacey Abrams gets kudos for work in Georgia runoff election MORE (D-Calif.) called the decision “a huge victory for human rights.”