Yemen, Houthis complete the largest prisoner swap in 5 years
Yemen’s warring parties have completed the largest prisoner-swap in the country’s five-year war, with rebels releasing fighters affiliated with influential pro-government armed groups.
Some 680 Houthi rebels and 400 pro-government fighters were flown between the capital Sanaa and the second city of Aden on Thursday and Friday.
The swap has been two years in the making, with rival sides initially agreeing to it in December 2018 as part of the UN-sponsored Stockholm Agreement, many parts of which have not seen any progress.
On Wednesday, the Houthis freed two US hostages and 200 of their supporters were allowed to return from Oman.
Among those freed and flown to Aden on Friday was Eid Allah al-Kouli, a prominent Yemeni intellectual, and author who was captured by the Houthis in Hodeidah before being imprisoned in the capital for five years, according to Ahmed Naji, a leader of Yemen’s writers’ union.
Rebel official Abdel-Qader al-Mortada said that the two sides had already agreed on another swap and are currently waiting for the UN to decide where they can meet to finalize the details.
On the other side, the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told the Security Council on Thursday that the operation was an “airlift of hope”.
“This will bring immense relief and comfort to all those families who waited so long to be reunited as well as to other families, close relations, friends and members of their communities,” he said.
The Stockholm Agreement should have resulted in 15,000 prisoners being exchanged within a month.
Yemen’s conflict has killed 100,000 people and led to what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.