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Yemen’s rival sides begin largest-yet prisoner swap

  • October 17, 2020

Oct 15, 2020

The largest prisoner exchange in the history of Yemen’s long-running civil war began today, the United Nations and aid groups said, a day after the Houthi rebels released two American hostages. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is helping facilitate the transfer of more than 1,000 detainees this week, confirmed on Twitter that five of its planes carrying Yemeni prisoners took off this morning from airports in Abha, Saudi Arabia, and the Yemeni cities of Sanaa and Seiyun. 

Last month in the Swiss town of Montreux, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government agreed to exchange 1,081 prisoners, including 15 Saudis. The exchange represents a fraction of the 15,000 prisoners the two sides agreed to swap under a broader pact reached in Stockholm in 2018. 

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths described the latest prisoner release as “an airlift of hope for Yemen.”

“It may well be the largest such operation of this kind in the history of prisoner release,” he said, adding that his team will soon convene the warring parties to discuss further releases in line with commitments made in Stockholm. 

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