It included about 900 prisoners and lasted for 3 days… The end of a major prisoner exchange operation between the Houthis and the Yemeni government


On Sunday, a major prisoner exchange operation between the Houthis and the Yemeni government forces ended, which included about 900 prisoners and lasted for 3 days. The Houthis also revealed a new deal with the government that includes the release of 1,400 prisoners from both sides, at a time when the Houthis announced that talks with Saudi Arabia would continue after Eid al-Fitr, which wasted Hopes to announce a new truce before the end of Ramadan.

The exchange process coincided with diplomatic efforts resulting from the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, aimed at consolidating a long-term ceasefire and putting the bloody war in the impoverished country on the path to a solution.

The ICRC's media advisor, Jessica Mossan, confirmed to AFP that the process had been completed, adding that "a total of 869 former detainees have been confirmed released."

On Sunday, 5 planes transported about 200 former prisoners from Marib – the last stronghold of power in northern Yemen – to the capital, Sana'a, which has been under the control of the Houthis since 2015, and in the opposite direction.

During negotiations held in Berne last month, the Houthis and the government reached an agreement to exchange about 869 prisoners. Under the agreement, the Houthis will release about 180 prisoners, including 16 Saudi prisoners and 3 Sudanese prisoners, in exchange for about 700 detainees held by government forces.

On Friday, about 320 prisoners were exchanged, then about 350 on Saturday.

The exchange included only one woman, Samira Marsh, who was arrested by government forces 5 years ago on charges of "planting explosive devices in the streets, in the vicinity of government headquarters, and under cars and vehicles of army commanders," in addition to "managing a women's cell that plants explosive devices that caused the death of dozens," he said. It has a government security official in Marib.

The spokesman for the government delegation to the prisoners' negotiations, a member of the negotiating delegation and Undersecretary of the Ministry of Human Rights, Majed Fadael, confirmed to the French Press Agency that they had been exchanged for 4 journalists sentenced to death by the Houthi authorities.

1400 prisoners

In the same context, the Houthi group revealed a new deal with the government that includes the release of 1,400 prisoners from both sides, at a press conference at Sana'a airport held by Abdul Qadir al-Murtada, head of the Houthi prisoners' committee, after completing the process of releasing about 900 prisoners earlier today.

Al-Murtada said, "A future deal will be concluded with 700 prisoners, in exchange for 700 from the other side (referring to the Yemeni government)," without additional details about the date of that deal.

He added that they were "happy with the completion of this deal, which included dozens of abductees," noting that "work is under way to liberate all the prisoners."

For his part, Majid Fadayel, a spokesman for the government delegation, said – in a tweet on Twitter after the conclusion of the exchange process – that a new consultation process for the exchange of prisoners will start on May 15th.

"We are very keen to release all prisoners and detainees, under the principle of all for all without discrimination," the Yemeni official said, expressing his hope that the next round of negotiations would be "successful and fruitful."

Freed prisoners at Sanaa Airport
Houthi prisoners took off from Ma'rib by plane to Sana'a International Airport, where the Houthi stronghold is (Reuters)

A positive step towards peace

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross considered – on Sunday – that the prisoner exchange process between the government and the Houthis is "a positive step towards peace and reconciliation in Yemen."

And the committee announced – in a tweet via Twitter – "the successful completion of the release of prisoners after 3 days since the exchange began," adding that it worked with the Yemeni Red Crescent "hard" to return the prisoners to their families.

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