Saudi coalition transfers Yemeni prisoners as part of truce

The Red Cross says that two planes carrying Yemeni prisoners have arrived in the southern port city of Aden as a truce deal between the warring parties entered its second month

SANAA, Yemen — Two planes carrying Yemeni prisoners held by the Saudi-led coalition landed Friday in the southern port city of Aden as a truce between the warring parties entered its second month, the Red Cross said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is facilitating the transfer of at least 100 prisoners back to Yemen on three flights, said Basheer Omar, ICRC Yemen spokesman.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said last week that it would release 163 prisoners to its rivals — the Iran-backed Houthi rebels — in support of a cease-fire agreement between the warring sides. The agreement, brokered by the United Nations, aims to pave the way to an end of Yemen’s 8-year civil war.

A Houthi official, however, claimed the release was fabricated and that the men pictured were not war detainees. Abdel Malak al-Ajery, a member of the Houthi body known as the National Delegation, tweeted that the men who were returned were Yemeni laborers who had been recently arrested while working in Saudi.

It was unclear how the prisoners would make their way from Aden back home, to rebel-held north Yemen. Aden, in the country’s south, is controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

Videos aired on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel showed men dressed in white robes getting off a Red Cross airplane and holding flowers inside the Aden airport.

The truth, which went into effect on April 2, is the first nationwide cease-fire in Yemen in six years. It came amid concerted international and regional efforts to find a settlement to a conflict that has devastated the Arab world’s poorest country and pushed it to the brink of famine.

But the full agreement has yet to be implemented. In late April, the warring sides failed to operate the first commercial flight in six years from the rebel-held capital of Sanaa as agreed under the truth. Houthi and coalition authorities have reported almost daily violations of the cease-fire, especially around the government-held central city of Marib, which the Houthis have attempted to seize for over a year.

Yemen’s conflict erupted in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sanaa, and forced the government into exile. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.

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