Skip to main content

Yemen: Dozens of additional prisoners released following deal with Saudi Arabia

Exchange of prisoners comes one day after 869 captives released, boosting hopes of ending war
Members of Yemeni government forces, who have been recently released, disembark from an aircraft upon arrival at Marib airport on 16 April 2023 (AFP)

More than 100 prisoners of war were flown from Saudi Arabia to Yemen on Monday in what has been described as a "unilateral" release by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The move comes a day after a major exchange of 869 captives between Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia officials, raising hopes of further progress towards peace.

The ICRC facilitated Monday's transfer, providing air transport and logistical support. Two ICRC planes carrying 48 prisoners each flew to Sanaa, Yemen's rebel-held capital, while a third with eight captives took off for government-controlled Aden in the south.

The release of 104 captives, which took place just days before the major Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, brings the total number of prisoners freed since Friday to 973.

Houthis set sights on international recognition as Yemen peace talks progress
Read More »

"This will bring immense relief to the families of the detainees," said Jessica Moussan, ICRC's media adviser.

"We welcome this initiative and are pleased to see that humanitarian considerations are being taken for the sake of reuniting families."

The conflict in Yemen, which has been ongoing since the Houthis seized Sanaa in 2014, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and triggered a major humanitarian crisis.

A Saudi-led military intervention began in 2015, but a UN-brokered ceasefire in April 2022 drastically reduced casualties. The truce expired in October, but fighting has largely remained on hold.

Last week, a Saudi delegation held talks in Sanaa aimed at establishing a more durable ceasefire. Although the discussions ended without a truce, an agreement to meet again was reached.

According to analysts, it appears that Saudi Arabia has come to the realisation that their prolonged military campaign will not bring about the defeat of the rebel forces in Yemen.

This understanding comes amidst recent exchange and truce negotiations, which occurred a month after Saudi Arabia and Iran re-established diplomatic ties, leading to a wave of rapprochement across the region.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.