SANA, Yemen ( Associated Press) — A plane carrying Yemeni prisoners held by the pro-Saudi coalition has arrived in the southern city of Aden as the truce between Yemen’s warring parties enters its second month, the Red Cross said Friday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is facilitating the return to Yemen of at least 100 prisoners on three flights, said Basheer Omar, the agency’s spokesman in Yemen.
The pro-Saudi coalition in Yemen announced last week that it would free 163 prisoners and hand them over to the rival side, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, to cement the truce.
The agreement, mediated by the UN, seeks to pave the way to end the conflict that has lasted eight years.
So far there has been no comment from the Houthis on the release of prisoners, nor clarification on how they will return to their communities. Aden is under the control of the internationally recognized government of Yemen.
The Saudi channel Al-Arabiya broadcast videos of men dressed in white robes leaving a Red Cross plane, flowers in hand, at Aden airport.
The truce, in effect since April 2, is the first in six years in Yemen. It occurs amid intense international efforts to end the conflict that has devastated the poorest country in the Arab world, bringing it to the brink of famine.
But the agreement has not yet been fully implemented. At the end of April, both sides failed in an attempt to carry out what would have been the first commercial flight in six years from the capital Sanaa, which is currently in rebel hands.
Both Houthi and coalition authorities have reported violations of the truce on an almost daily basis, especially around Marib, a town held by government forces that the rebels are trying to seize.
Civil war broke out in Yemen in 2014, when the Houthis took Sanaa and forced the government into exile. The pro-Saudi coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.