Yemeni rebels and government forces have completed a three-day prisoner exchange, which saw the release of nearly 900 detainees. The move has raised hopes of ending the protracted civil war in Yemen. Planes carrying detainees departed simultaneously from the Houthi rebel-held capital of Sanaa and the government-controlled northern city of Marib. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the success of the exchange.
Jessica Moussan, an ICRC media advisor, told AFP that “the first flight from Marib and the first flight from Sanaa have left.” Three additional flights were scheduled to complete the deal, which was reached in Switzerland last month. The exchange involved 181 government forces being swapped for 706 rebels.
Among those released were four journalists who had been sentenced to death by the Iranian-backed Houthis, according to government negotiator Majed Fadail. Rebel political chief, Mahdi Al Mashat, announced that the next round of talks with Saudi Arabia, which leads the military coalition against the Houthis, would commence after the Eid Al Fitr holiday on April 21, as reported by Yemen’s Saba news agency.
The most recent talks concluded hours before the release of 318 prisoners, who were transported on four flights from government-controlled Aden to Sanaa on Friday. The released detainees were able to reunite with their families. On Saturday, 357 detainees took flights between the Saudi city of Abha and Sanaa. The exchange included the release of Saudis who had been held by the Houthi rebels.
The prisoner exchange is a significant step toward ending the ongoing conflict in Yemen, which began in 2014 when the Houthi rebels seized control of the capital, Sanaa. Since then, the Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The war has left millions of people in Yemen on the brink of famine and has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The prisoner exchange is hoped to lead to further peace talks and eventually an end to the conflict.