Yemen's Houthi rebels freed at least 290 prisoners, including dozens of survivors from a Saudi-led strike on a detention center earlier this month, as part of U.N.-sponsored deal, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday. In December, the Iran-allied Houthis and the Saudi-backed government agreed a prisoner-swap deal that is expected to see the exchange of around 16,000 prisoners. The release was facilitated by ICRC and the U.N.
ICRC hailed the move as "a positive step that will hopefully revive the release, transfer and repatriation of conflict-related detainees" under a deal struck last year between the rebels and Yemen's internationally recognized government.
The Houthis recently announced the capture of hundreds of Yemeni loyalist forces in an August offensive near the Saudi border, but they were not among those released yesterday. Abdul-Qader al-Murtada, head of the Houthis' committee for prisoners' affairs, urged the U.N. to pressure the Yemen's government to take a similar step.
The U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, between representatives of the government and the rebels, led to an agreement that also included the withdrawal of forces from Hodeida city and a truce in the port city. The agreement has not been fully implemented. The Red Cross said that, between April and August, it has facilitated the transfer of 31 minors previously detained in Saudi Arabia. They were brought from Mareb, which is controlled by the Saudi-backed government, before they were reunited with their families in Sanaa. In February, the Saudi-led coalition released seven Houthi prisoners after the rebels released a Saudi prisoner who was in poor health.