In a significant step toward resolving the protracted conflict in Yemen, the country’s warring factions successfully completed a massive exchange of prisoners on Sunday, with a total of 887 detainees swapped over three consecutive days.
Yahya Kazman, chief of the negotiation committee from the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, said the third and final batch of the swap took place successfully on Sunday, with the arrival of three simultaneous Red Cross flights at the airport of Sanaa and the airport of Tadween in Marib, central Yemen.
Over the past three days, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations have facilitated the transportation of hundreds of prisoners between Yemen’s regions and Saudi Arabia via various airports.
High-profile figures, including Nasser Mansour Hadi, the brother of former Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and Mahmoud Al Subeihi, the country’s former defense minister, were among those who were freed.
The prisoner swap comes as part of ongoing efforts aimed at building trust between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia, who have been engaged in a brutal internal conflict since late 2014.
It is also widely regarded as a vital milestone in preparing a favorable environment and showcasing mutual commitment from both parties to actively participate in forthcoming peace negotiations with the ultimate aim of achieving permanent peace.
Following the successful exchange of prisoners between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia, local observers said that the move has ignited a glimmer of optimism for further deals that could potentially lead to the release of all those held in captivity.
Yemen has been embroiled in a years-long military conflict after the Houthi militia, backed by Iran, took control of several northern cities and ousted the Saudi-backed Yemeni government from the capital, Sanaa in 2014.
The ongoing conflict has resulted in a staggering number of casualties and has pushed the Arab world’s poorest country into a humanitarian crisis, including widespread famine.