SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The exchange of more than 800 Yemeni war prisoners held by Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition fighting them will begin on Friday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. was done. The UN-brokered deal has been in the works for months and comes in a coordinated diplomatic effort to negotiate an end to the conflict.
In a three-day exchange, prisoners were flown between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s capital Sanaa and held for long by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Yemen’s internationally recognized government human rights officer said. Deputy Minister Majed Fadyal said.
Other flights will carry prisoners between Sanaa and other Yemeni cities controlled by internationally recognized governments, he said. The Red Cross said Friday there will be two simultaneous flights between Aden and Sanaa to transfer prisoners.
The three-day operation is Yemen’s most important prisoner exchange since both sides released more than 1,000 detainees in October 2020.
Yemen’s conflict began in 2014 when the Houthis occupied Sana’a and much of the north. Yemen’s internationally recognized government fled south and then into exile in Saudi Arabia.
The Houthi takeover prompted the Saudi-led coalition to intervene months later. The conflict has in recent years turned into a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the United States long on the periphery and providing intelligence support to the kingdom. Criticism prompted the United States to withdraw its support.
The war killed more than 150,000 people, including combatants and civilians, creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
The prisoner exchange was scheduled to begin earlier in the week, but was delayed for logistical reasons.
“This act of goodwill will see hundreds of families torn apart by conflict reunited during the holy month of Ramadan, seeing a ray of hope in the midst of great suffering,” the statement said. It is my sincere hope that this will spur a broader political solution and lead to the return of more detainees to their loved ones.”
The deal tentatively calls on the Houthis to release more than 180 prisoners, including Saudi and Sudanese troops fighting the Saudi-led coalition, and four Yemeni journalists. The journalist was recently detained and sentenced to death by a Houthi-controlled court in a trial that Amnesty International described as “grossly unfair”.
The deal also releases high-ranking military officials held by the Houthis since the start of the war. They include Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, who was Defense Minister when the war broke out. Nasser Mansour Hadi, brother of former Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. And relatives of the powerful late President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In return, the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni government will release more than 700 Houthi prisoners, rebels said.
Saudi Arabia has already released 13 Houthi detainees who returned to Sanaa on April 9, ahead of a trip to the Yemeni capital by Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al Jaber. A total of 869 prisoners will be released, including those detained in the Red Cross, the Red Cross said.
Al-Jaber’s visit to Sana’a will see Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis aimed at reviving a nationwide ceasefire that expired in October and resuming peace talks between Yemen to end the conflict. It was part of a brokered negotiation.
An agreement to restore ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran last month boosted negotiations between the kingdom and the Houthis and revitalized hopes for a negotiated settlement of the Yemeni conflict.
But some analysts fear Saudi Arabia’s withdrawal could spark a new form of conflict between Yemen’s rival governments. There are also separatists who want to revive another country.
Nadwa Dausari, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said: “Temporary peace between the Saudis and the Houthis is possible, but violence inside Yemen is likely to escalate. there is,” he said.
She said the Houthis have shown no willingness to compromise to reach peace with other Yemeni groups.
“That’s their ideology. They feel they have the right to rule,” she said.
Yemen is also home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington has long considered the most dangerous offshoot of Islamic extremist groups.
Magdy reports from Cairo. His AP writer, John Gambrel, from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
https://wgnradio.com/news/international/red-cross-yemen-rebels-saudi-coalition-begin-prisoner-swap/ Red Cross: Yemeni Rebels and Saudi Coalition Begin Prisoner Exchange WGN Radio 720