The Saudi-led coalition said it has freed 108 Yemeni prisoners from Saudi Arabia to return to Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition announced this Friday that it sent more than 100 Yemeni prisoners from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.
The move was in line with the International Committee of the Red Cross humanitarian initiative to support truce in Yemen.
In another statement earlier last month, the coalition had said that it would release 163 prisoners from Houthis. But Houthis, who fought against Saudi Arabia, later said the list included individuals who did not belong to them.
A number of 108 prisoners were flown from Saudi Arabia to Aden, the city where Yemen’s Saudi-backed government is based. In addition, nine more were returned to the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
The ICRC then issued a statement to complete its tasks and confirmed the return of 117 prisoners to Yemen.
The Houthis also confirmed the transfer and said they were constantly in contact with the ICRC in this process.
However, the movement noted that 126 detainees who have been freed are less than what the Saudis promised last month. “the number of the released prisoners is not 163 as the Saudi regime announced,” the group said Friday.
The Houthis also criticized the Coalition’s move that of the nine prisoners they received, only five were “prisoners of war” and four were fishermen “who had been kidnapped in the Red Sea.” They also said nine of the detainees were foreigners from Africa, not Yemeni citizens.
But despite the above-mentioned rebukes, the Houthi movement said it welcomes the freeing of any Yemenis.
They also noted that the group has freed 400 prisoners of war from the Coalition this year.
How bad can the war go?
The Yemen war is now eight years old. During this long wartime which started back in 2014, more than 336000 persons, mostly civilians, lost their lives. It is also feared that if the war continues, the number of casualties may even reach 1.3 million by 2030.
What is alarming is that more than 70 percent of this number will be from indirect deaths such as famine. The war has therefore created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the 21st century.
As the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says in this regard, “the humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world.” Nearly eight years of conflict and severe economic decline are driving the country to the brink of famine.
The Office also notes that “an estimated 80 percent of Yemen’s population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance. This includes 14.3 million who are in acute need.”
To hopefully end the nightmare in Yemen, the parties agreed on a two-month truce that began on April 2.
The truce announcement was made by the UN special envoy Hans Grundberg a day earlier on April 1. “The parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground, and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders,” he said in a statement then.
The two sides also discussed a potential prisoner swap late in March under the auspices of the UN. The transfer would involve 1,400 Houthi prisoners and 823 coalition prisoners.
Good to mention that the last major prisoner exchange, which involved about 1,000 detainees, took place back in 2020.