After major Yemen prisoner swap, another 104 released: ICRC

AFP , Monday 17 Apr 2023

More than 100 prisoners of war were flown from Saudi Arabia to Yemen on Monday, further buoying peace hopes a day after a major exchange of 869 captives ended, the ICRC said.

Yemen prisoners swap
Members of Yemeni government forces who have been recently released, disembark from an aircraft upon arrival at Marib airport on April 16, 2023. AFP


Two International Committee of the Red Cross planes carrying 48 prisoners each flew to Sanaa, Yemen's rebel-held capital, while a third with eight captives headed for government-controlled Aden in the south, the humanitarian group said.

The "unilateral" release is outside the terms of the three-day exchange that was negotiated between Yemen's Huthi rebels and government officials and finished on Sunday, ICRC media adviser Jessica Moussan told AFP.

"We welcome this initiative and are pleased to see that humanitarian considerations are being taken for the sake of reuniting families," Moussan said.

"This will bring immense relief to the families of the detainees," she added.

The ICRC is "facilitating" the transfer by providing air transport and logistical support, and by interviewing the captives, Moussan said.

The release of 104 captives, days before the major Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, takes the total number to 973 freed since Friday.

The Iran-backed Huthis seized Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention months later.

Hundreds of thousands have died in the conflict, which has also triggered a major humanitarian crisis.

A UN-brokered ceasefire that started in April 2022 has sharply reduced casualties. The truce expired in October, but fighting has largely remained on hold.

The Saudi-led coalition's spokesman, Turki al-Maliki, confirmed the extra releases, saying they "completed" the prisoner exchange.

This "extension of previous humanitarian initiatives" aims to help "stabilise" the lapsed truce and create an "atmosphere of dialogue", Maliki said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The prisoner releases come a month after Gulf heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties, sparking a wave of rapprochement across the troubled region.

Last week, a Saudi delegation held talks in Sanaa aimed at establishing a more durable ceasefire. The discussions ended without a truce but with an agreement to meet again.

Analysts say Saudi Arabia now accepts its prolonged military campaign will not defeat the rebel forces.

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