'Hope for Peace-Building':Yemen's Warring Parties Exchange Prisoners

Clay Curtis
October 17, 2020

One of them was headed for the city of Abha in neighbouring Saudi Arabia with released prisoners of war from a Saudi-led military coalition that supports the Yemeni government, rebel officials said.

"Thanks to God, about 240 fellow countrymen, who had been wounded and stranded, arrived in Sanaa on board two Omani planes", said Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam.

Planes carrying prisoners exchanged by the warring parties in Yemen took off from three airports on Thursday in an operation to return about 1,000 men home and help build the trust to enable fresh talks to end a devastating war.

The warring sides in Yemen's long conflict will exchange some 1,081 prisoners on Thursday and Friday, under a deal struck in Switzerland last month, Aljazeera reported.

Houthi rebels in Yemen agreed to release two U.S. hostages in exchange for the release of 200 militants held in Oman, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

One of the aeroplanes was carrying Saudi and Sudanese detainees and flew to Saudi Arabia.

"This operation that means so much to so many families is underway", Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Middle East, told Reuters. Saudi Arabian officials tentatively backed the deal, which is risky as it permits dozens of Houthi militants to return to the battle zone after receiving training on advanced drones and missiles.

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Al-Murtaza said that 680 prisoners were originally supposed to have been released into Houthi custody but the "coalition excluded tens [of] prisoners from the prisons of Marib province, which prompted us to exclude prisoners".

With everything going to plan, the hope is that this will be the sort of confidence-building measure needed to really get the peace process going in earnest.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in March 2015, when the rebels seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas.

"Under the directions of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the relevant authorities in the Sultanate contacted authorities in Sanaa which agreed to release the Americans and to transfer them to the Sultanate before heading home", Oman state TV said.

In addition to the two Americans, the remains of a third, Bilal Fateen, were also being sent back to the United States.

Humanitarian worker Sandra Loli and businessman Mikael Gidada were freed by the Huthi rebels.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Western-backed coalition to intervene in March 2015.

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