Republican and Democratic senators introduce legislation seeking to strike back at Saudi Arabia over the death of a Saudi journalist at a consulate in Turkey and for its role in Yemen's devastating war.

Boys play football at a camp sheltering displaced people from the Red Sea port city of Hudaida near Aden, Yemen. November 12, 2018.
Boys play football at a camp sheltering displaced people from the Red Sea port city of Hudaida near Aden, Yemen. November 12, 2018. (Fawaz Salman / Reuters)

Republican and Democratic US senators introduced legislation on Thursday seeking to strike back at Saudi Arabia over the death of a Saudi journalist at the Istanbul consulate in Turkey and for its role in Yemen's devastating civil war.

If it were to become law, the bill would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit US refuelling of Saudi coalition aircraft for Riyadh's campaign in Yemen against the Houthis, Shia Muslim fighters that Yemen's neighbours view as agents of Iran, the lawmakers said.

It also would impose sanctions on anyone blocking humanitarian access in Yemen and anyone supporting the Houthis in Yemen.

Sponsored by three Republican and three Democratic senators, the legislation reflects continued dissatisfaction in the US Congress over the Yemen war. What started as a civil conflict has killed more than 10,000 people — some reports put the death toll as high as 56,000 — and created the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis.

That frustration was exacerbated by the killing in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post.

Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said sanctions on 17 Saudis announced earlier on Thursday by President Donald Trump's administration were not enough to ensure a credible investigation of Khashoggi's death and an end to hostilities in Yemen.

"We are putting teeth behind these demands with regular oversight, sanctions and suspension of weapons sales and refuelling support," he said in a statement.

"This legislation is an important way to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for various acts in Yemen as well as the death of Jamal Khashoggi," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, another sponsor.

The bill's other sponsors include Republican Senators Todd Young and Susan Collins and Democrats Jack Reed and Jeanne Shaheen. 

Meanwhile, the Senate rejected an effort to block $300 million in weapon sales to Bahrain among a growing unease in Congress about the US role supporting the Saudi Arabia-led coalition's military campaign in Yemen. Bahrain is a member of the Saudi-led coalition at war with Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015. 

Source: Reuters