More than 1,000 people were released after the prisoner exchange between government and Houthi militants.
Yemen’s warring parties have completed the largest prisoner swap in the country’s Five Year War, with rebels freeing fighters belonging to influential government-affiliated armed groups.
During the two-day exchange between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi Arabia-backed government in Yemen, more than 1,000 people were released and transported to their homes.
The Houthis said 671 prisoners arrived in the capital, Sanaa, during the trial.
The swap lasted two years, and rival sides agreed to it in December 2018 under the United Nations-sponsored Stockholm Agreement, many parts of which have made no progress.
Delegates representing the government and the Houthi rebels finalized the details for this agreement last month following UN-brokered talks in Switzerland.
Rebel official Abdel-Qader al-Mortada said the two sides had already agreed on another swap and are currently waiting for the United Nations to decide where to meet to finalize the details.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the exchange of prisoners and called it an “important step” in the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.
Guterres also called on the parties to “finalize the joint declaration, which consists of a nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian measures and the resumption of a comprehensive, inclusive political process to end the war,” his spokesman said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which facilitated the transfer and release of detainees, said 11 flights took off or landed in five different cities: Yemen’s Sanaa, Seiyun and Aden; and Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh and Abha.
The ICRC synchronized the planes as they departed from their respective cities to ensure that both rivals get a fair exchange.
Among those who were freed and flown to Aden on Friday was Eid Allah al-Kouli, a prominent Yemeni intellectual and author who was captured by the Houthis in Hodeidah before imprisoned in the capital for five years, so Ahmed Naji, a leader of the Yemeni Writers’ Union.
Naji described al-Kouli as a prisoner of conscience who was captured for criticizing the Houthi authorities.
The ICRC International, which facilitated the transfer and release of detainees, said a total of 11 flights took off or landed in five different cities [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu]In Sanaa, the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV showed the newly liberated rebels in traditional white robes stepping off the plane onto a long red carpet, where they were greeted by a crowd of officials, aides and relatives while trumpets howled and wept “God is great” rang out.
They threw themselves on the floor and kissed the carpet.
The Yemen conflict killed 100,000 people and led to what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.