The warring parties in Yemen agree to exchange prisoners

The Yemeni government and its Houthi rebel rivals have agreed to exchange nearly 900 prisoners amid new diplomatic efforts by the United Nations to try to broker a sustainable truce in the war-torn country.

Earlier this month, negotiators from both sides began UN-brokered talks in Switzerland.

Abdul Qadir al-Murtada, the head of the rebels’ prisoner exchange committee, said on Twitter that the Houthis would release 181 prisoners in return for the 706 that the Saudi-backed government would release.

The exchange is scheduled to take place after three weeks, and another round of talks is expected after the holy month of Ramadan, which will start this week.

He added that the prisoners who will be released by the Houthis are Saudi and Sudanese citizens.

The government negotiator, Majid Fadel, said that the deal includes the release of four journalists who were sentenced to death by the Houthis and senior government military officials, including a former defense minister and the sons of the leader, Tariq Saleh, who is currently a member of the country’s presidential council.

In 2020, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facilitated the largest exchange deal among Yemen’s rivals, with more than 1,000 people released over two days.

The two sides have been in conflict since 2014 when the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and other cities, prompting members of the government to flee south.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a military coalition to support government forces as the Houthis advanced towards Aden, the government’s interim seat.

Last year, the United Nations brokered one of the longest periods of lull in fighting, with a truce between April and October.

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