Second day of a large exchange of prisoners between Yemen and Saudi Arabia

The operation began on Friday

Second day of a large exchange of prisoners between Yemen and Saudi Arabia

The operation began on Friday. On the second day of a major prisoner swap in the war in Yemen, a plane carrying Yemeni rebels left Saudi Arabia for Sanaa on Saturday (April 15th) in the hands of insurgents, while Saudi detainees were preparing to join their country. The operation between the Yemeni government - backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia - and the Houthi rebels - backed by Iran - aims to end the conflict that has ravaged the country for more than eight years.

By Friday, 318 prisoners, including Yemen's former defense minister and the former president's brother, had been transported between government-controlled Aden and the capital Sanaa, which has been in Houthi hands for more than eight years. In all, nearly 900 detainees were to be released over three days, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which oversees the operation, in accordance with an agreement reached in early March in Switzerland between the two countries.

On Saturday, a first plane took off from Abha airport, in the south of the kingdom, before 9 a.m. (8 a.m. in Paris), with 120 Houthi detainees on board, said Jessica Moussan, in charge of media relations. at the ICRC. The prisoners had been taken by bus to the tarmac of this airport which had been the target of Houthi missile attacks in the past.

Meanwhile, members of the military coalition held by the Houthis - sixteen Saudis and three Sudanese - are expected to be transferred on Saturday from Sanaa to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. A third plane is later to transport 117 Houthi detainees from Abha to Sanaa, and three flights will operate between the Yemeni towns of Al-Mukha and Sanaa, carrying around 100 prisoners.

"Positive" Talks

The war in Yemen has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, in a context of epidemics, lack of drinking water and acute hunger. More than three quarters of the population depend on international aid, which nevertheless continues to decline. The fighting has largely ceased since the United Nations brokered a truce a year ago, although that officially ended in October.

Last week, a Saudi delegation traveled to Sanaa for talks aimed at reviving the truce and laying the groundwork for a more durable ceasefire. The delegation left Sanaa on Thursday with a "preliminary agreement" for a truce and the promise of "new talks", according to a rebel official who wished to remain anonymous. The talks were described as "positive" by the Houthis' chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdelsalam

This vast prisoner exchange operation, the largest since the release of more than 1,000 prisoners in October 2020, is part of a context of regional appeasement. The two great powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, concluded in March an agreement, brokered by China, with a view to resuming their relations after seven years of rupture, likely to change the regional situation.