Saudi-led coalition says it will release 163 Houthi prisoners

Coalition command has begun measures to release prisoners in co-ordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross

Senior Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, centre, welcomes fighters released in a prisoner swap with the Yemeni government in Sanaa on October 2 2021. EPA
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The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen said on Thursday that the alliance would release 163 Houthi prisoners in a humanitarian gesture.

The move is aimed at supporting efforts to end the crisis in Yemen, achieve peace, uphold the ongoing truce and pave the way for dialogue between the Yemeni parties, coalition spokesman Brig Gen Turki Al Malki said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Gen Al Malki said the move aimed to support United Nations efforts to solidify a two-month truce that went into effect on April 2, "prepare the atmosphere for dialogue between the Yemeni sides and facilitate closing the prisoners and detainees file".

Earlier on Thursday, UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said on Twitter that the parties have reiterated their commitment to upholding the nationwide truce, the most significant step in years towards ending the seven-year conflict.

The coalition's command has begun measures to release the prisoners in co-ordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The prisoners will be transported to the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Brig Gen Al Malki said.

The April 2 truce is the first nationwide ceasefire in Yemen in six years. It also included allowing fuel imports into Houthi-held areas and some flights operating from Sanaa airport. The flights have yet to start, with the Saudi-backed authorities insisting all passengers carry government-issued passports.

"We are working tirelessly to help them (parties) identify solutions to resume flights from Sanaa," Mr Grundberg said.

The last major prisoner exchange, involving around 1,000 detainees, took place in 2020 as part of confidence-building steps agreed at the last peace talks held in 2018.

Yemen’s brutal civil war began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sanaa and forced the internationally recognised government into exile.

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the conflict, including more than 14,500 civilians.

The war has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with millions suffering from widespread food insecurity.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 4:32 PM