As part of its initiative to end the country’s conflict, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen freed 163 Houthi prisoners of war on Friday and assisted in their return to Aden and Sanaa.

A total of 108 people were taken to Aden, Yemen’s interim capital, and nine to Houthi-controlled Sanaa. Nine foreign fighters were detained while fighting alongside the Houthis and handed over to their respective nations’ embassies. 37 wounded fighters were also transported by land to their home districts in Yemen.

The first flight carrying dozens of Houthi prisoners from Saudi Arabia to Yemen left on Friday morning, the first of three phases of the procedure to transfer the inmates to Sanaa and Aden.

Three planes are being used by the International Committee of the Red Cross to transport over 100 detainees from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.

The locations of released inmates were selected by their place of origin, present homes, personal wishes, and security considerations, according to Basheer Omar, a spokesperson for the ICRC team in Yemen, who added that roughly 80 captives arrived in Aden by Friday afternoon.

After the Houthis refused to accept them in Sanaa, Yemeni government officials in charge of prisoners of war said captives arriving in Aden would be transported to their villages and cities by buses and cars.

Yemen’s deputy minister of human rights and a member of a government team engaging in prisoner swap talks with the militia, Majed Fadhail, commended Saudi Arabia for the humanitarian move, saying the Houthis wanted the coalition to release their military leaders.

“The Houthis wanted huge heads and certain Hashemite fighters released,” Fadhail claimed, encouraging the Houthis to reciprocate by releasing thousands of Yemenis incarcerated in their prisons. “I am hopeful that this approach will hasten the fulfillment of the prisoner exchange agreement,” he said.

The latest efforts to strike an agreement between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government have come to a halt after the militia offered exchanging their members arrested by the government for civilians kidnapped from Sanaa’s streets.

In October 2020, warring factions in Yemen swapped about 1,000 inmates in the first significant prisoner exchange since the conflict began, which was arranged by the UN.

The coalition’s prisoner move comes as international pressure mounts on Yemeni sides to maintain the current two-month UN-brokered cease-fire, which has been plagued by claims of hundreds of violations, including a Houthi drone strike in Taiz.

The UN-brokered cease-fire is helping to ease Yemen’s worsening humanitarian situation and opening avenues to peace, according to UK Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim, who urged Yemeni parties to keep their promises to end the fighting.

“We join worldwide calls for all parties to honor their cease-fire promises, particularly by easing years of siege-like conditions that have resulted in a humanitarian disaster for hundreds of thousands of people in and around Taiz and reopening Sanaa airport,” he tweeted.

The French Embassy in Yemen expressed its worry about the delays in opening Sanaa’s airport and the Houthi siege of Taiz, urging all parties to work together in good faith to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis throughout the nation by supporting the cease-fire.

“After more than seven years of war, everything must be done to relieve the Yemeni people’s suffering, whether in Taiz or elsewhere in Yemen.” All sides must respect the cease-fire for the sake of all Yemenis,” the embassy wrote.

The Yemeni government reported the Houthis broke the cease-fire 341 times between April 30 and May 4 during the Eid holiday, attacking and firing missiles at government-controlled cities and army positions in Taiz, Marib, Jouf, Dhale, Saada, Abyan, and Hodeidah.

An explosive-laden drone launched by the Houthis targeted a security headquarters for government soldiers in the southern city of Taiz on Wednesday, injuring at least ten civilians.

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