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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Aden, Riyadh – Ali Rabih, Mohammed Nasser, Asharq Al-Awsat

Four Flights Carried 318 Yemenis on First Day of Prisoner Swap Deal

Prisoners from the government side upon their arrival in Aden, Yemen, on Friday (Photo Credit: Ali Jabour)

The Yemeni government and Houthi group completed the first phase of a prisoner swap deal on Friday. The deal was agreed upon last month in Switzerland and resulted in the release of 318 prisoners from both sides.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facilitated the exchange, which took place over four trips between the airports in Sana'a and Aden. The move was met with local, Gulf, and UN approval, as well as calls for the unconditional release of all detainees related to the conflict.

As the prisoner swap deal continues to be implemented throughout Saturday and Sunday, the Houthi group released 69 individuals affiliated with the legitimate government on the first day of the operation, which took place on Friday.

Among those released were two individuals listed in UN Security Council resolution 2216: former Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Sobeihi and Nasser Mansour Hadi, the brother of former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

On the other hand, the internationally recognized Yemeni government released 249 members of the Houthi group. Most of these individuals were captured on the front lines of the conflict. They were transported from Aden airport to Sana'a airport over two flights.

Official sources reported that Hadi was transported from Aden to Saudi Arabia after arriving from Sanaa. His health condition requires further care after spending about eight years in Houthi prisons with former minister Al-Sobeihi.

According to an official statement from the government delegation, on the second day, the government will work on transporting and exchanging another batch of detainees with the militias through airports in Abha, Sanaa, Riyadh, and Mukalla.

On the third and final day of this stage, the exchange process will take place through airports in Sanaa and Marib province. Among those released will be the four journalists sentenced to death by the Houthis.

The government team said in a statement that it was committed to launching the prisoner exchange process on time, citing national and moral responsibility and compliance with directives from the political leadership, including the President of the Presidential Council.

On its second day, the exchange operation will include the release of two relatives of Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) member Tariq Saleh, his son Aafash and his brother Mohammed, who have been detained by the Houthis since December 2017.

It will also include the release of 19 prisoners from coalition forces supporting the legitimacy.

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