Yemen: Over 1,000 prisoners to be freed in largest prisoner swap | Yemen
The warring sides in Yemen will exchange around 1,081 prisoners on Thursday and Friday, as agreed last month, a rebel official said.
The warring sides in Yemen’s long conflict will exchange around 1,081 prisoners on Thursday and Friday, as agreed in Switzerland last month, a senior rebel official said.
“The transaction will be carried out with God’s help today and tomorrow on the scheduled dates,” Abdel Kader Mortaza, the rebel official responsible for prisoners’ affairs, said in a tweet Thursday.
“The preparations have been completed by all parties,” he added.
Yemen’s government, which is supported by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, decided the Houthi rebels to exchange around 15,000 prisoners as part of a peace agreement brokered by the United Nations in Stockholm in 2018.
The two sides have conducted sporadic prisoner exchanges since then, but the swap planned this week would mark the first large-scale surrender since the war broke out in 2014.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths called this a “very important milestone” when the agreement was signed last month after a week of talks in Switzerland.
A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is handling the logistics of the operation, said her teams were present at various airports involved in the transfer.
“The ICRC teams are present at various airports. Preparations are ongoing, ”ICRC spokeswoman Yara Khaweja told Reuters.
“If everything goes as planned, hopefully the release process will take place in the next few hours,” she added.
An ICRC plane expected to carry Houthis released from captivity by the coalition has landed at Sayoun Airport in the government-held Hadramout area, a Reuters witness said.
Al Masirah TV, which is controlled by Houthis, said the first group of prisoners is expected to arrive at the international airport in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Thursday.
According to Reuters witnesses, two more planes are slated to pick up members of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition liberated by the Houthis that were liberated by the Houthis who landed at Sanaa airport.
The planned prisoner swap comes after the release of two Americans captured in Yemen on Wednesday in an apparent swap for 240 Houthi supporters who were allowed to return home after being stranded in Oman.
Commenting on the exchange, Nabeel Khoury, a senior researcher with the Atlantic Council for Studies, said timing of the prisoner exchange is crucial.
“The timing is good for the Donald Trump administration. It is one more thing for him to boast about the return of US citizens before the elections, ”Khoury told Al Jazeera.
“From the Houthis’ point of view, it’s also a good thing because Washington has tried to classify it as a terrorist organization. If it were classified that way, the hands of the US government would have been tied for being unable to deal with a terrorist organization, ”he said.
The rebels also sent back the remains of a third American who died in captivity.