Yemen’s government, rebels continue prisoner swap for second day

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Yemen
has began swapping 1,000 prisoners in a complex operation overseen [AFP/Getty]

Yemen’s warring parties will continue on Friday a much-anticipated prisoner swap operation that began the day before, in the largest exchange of detainees in the five-year war.

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said they have succeeded “in facilitating the transfer and release of more than 700 former detainees.”

Delegates representing the government and their rival Houthi rebels have finalized an agreement last month to release 1,081 conflict-related detainees and prisoners, following UN-brokered talks in Switzerland.

The transfer takes place almost two years after they initially agreed on the swap, following their UN-sponsored talks in Sweden in December 2018. The agreement included several points that have mostly been stalled since then.

According to Houthi media, an ICRC-affiliated plane landed in the rebel-controlled Sana’a airport on Friday to transfer around 150 more prisoners to the government’s temporary seat in southern Yemen, Aden city.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels took over Sana’a and other areas in Yemen in late 2014, however the conflict intensified when they advanced towards Aden few months later, prompting Saudi Arabia to form a military alliance that has been providing support to the government against the Houthis since March 2015.

The move came as Saudi Arabia fears the Houthi rebels are giving its regional rival, Iran, a strategic foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.

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