Yemen’s Houthi rebels freed over 100 war prisoners, the Red Cross says 

Houthi supporters march marking the anniversary of Yemeni unity in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on Sunday released more than 100 war prisoners linked to the country’s long-running conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross said, according to AP news.

The unilateral release came more than a year after Yemen’s warring sides freed more than 800 prisoners in a major exchange in the country in April last year.

The release of 113 prisoners took place Sunday morning in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa, the Red Cross said in a statement, adding that the released detainees were among those the ICRC visited and assisted regularly in their detention in the Yemeni capital.

“We hope this paves the way for further releases, bringing comfort to families eagerly anticipating reunification with their loved ones,” said Daphnee Maret, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen.

One of the released detainees with health issues was transferred in an ambulance to his hometown inside Yemen, the ICRC said without elaborating.

The release was delayed by a day because of apparent logistical reasons, said Abdul-Qader al-Murtaza, a Houthi official in charge of prisoner exchange talks.

Thousands of people are still believed to be held as prisoners of war since the conflict erupted in 2014, with others missing. The Red Cross viewed Sunday’s releases as a “positive step” to revive prisoner exchange negotiations.

“We are ready to play our role as a neutral intermediary in facilitating the release, transfer, and repatriation of detainees,” it said.

Yemen was plunged into a devastating conflict when the Houthis descended from their northern stronghold and seized Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government into exile.

A Saudi-led coalition including the United Arab Emirates intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government. The conflict has turned in recent years into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. More than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, have died in one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.