A plane waits to transport Houthi prisoners after being released by the Saudi-led coalition in a prisoner swap, in Sayoun, Yemen October 15, 2020 REUTERS
The warring sides in Yemen's long conflict will exchange some 1,081 prisoners Thursday and Friday, under a deal struck in Switzerland last month, a senior rebel official said Thursday.
"The transaction will be executed, with God's help, on the scheduled dates today and tomorrow," Abdel Kader Mortaza, the rebel official in charge of prisoner affairs, said in a tweet.
"The preparations have been completed by all parties," he added.
Yemen's government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels resolved to swap some 15,000 detainees as part of a peace deal brokered by the UN in Stockholm back in 2018.
The two sides have since undertaken sporadic prisoner exchanges, but this week's planned swap would mark the first large-scale handover since the war erupted in 2014.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths hailed it as a "very important milestone" when the agreement was struck after a week of talks in Switzerland last month.
A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is handling the logistics of the operation, said their teams were present at a number of different airports involved in the transfer.
"The preparations are ongoing, if everything goes as planned, we hopefully expect the release operation to take place in the coming few hours," she told AFP on Thursday morning.
Al-Masirah television, which is controlled by the Houthis, said the first group of insurgent prisoners was expected to arrive on Thursday at the international airport in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.
The planned prisoner exchange comes after the release Wednesday of two Americans held captive in Yemen, in an apparent swap for some 240 Houthi supporters who were allowed to return home after being stranded in Oman.
The rebels also sent back the remains of a third American who died in captivity.