Yemen crisis

Yemeni Houthi fighters, Hadi loyalists start prisoner swap

Members of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and militiamen loyal to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi have started exchanging hundreds of prisoners taken during the conflict in the country.

“We have started the exchange in small groups. Due to the security situation, we had to divide the prisoners into groups of 20 each,” Mokhtar al-Rabbash, a member of the prisoners’ affairs committee aligned to the former regime, said.

Rabbash said the detainees were being transferred in buses.

The swap is expected to include 375 Ansarullah fighters as well as 285 pro-Hadi militiamen, and is taking place along the boundary between Yemen’s southwestern province of Lahij and the central province of Bayda.

Militiamen loyal to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi hold a position in the Sirwah district of Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib on December 16, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Most of the Ansarullah prisoners are said to be young, captured when the southern port city of Aden, situated 346 kilometers (214 miles) south of the capital, Sana’a, fell into the hands of pro-Hadi forces in July.

There are reports that armed tribesmen from al-Baydah Province have blocked roads leading to the exchange venue, demanding that their relatives held by the Ansarullah movement should also be included in the swap.

With the prisoner exchange underway, Yemen’s army spokesman Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman accused Saudi Arabia of a “serious escalation by land, sea and air.”

He said Saudi forces are targeting the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, located 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Sana’a, from the sea. Ground forces have also launched ground offensives against the city of Ta’izz in southwestern Yemen, while fighter jets continue pounding areas across the crisis-hit Arab country.

Yemeni men walk past a building damaged in a Saudi airstrike in the capital, Sana’a, November 29, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

“We will respond strongly toward the breaches that are taking place,” Luqman pointed out referring to the truce brokered by the United Nations (UN).

The UN has said the ongoing peace talks on the Yemeni crisis in Geneva, Switzerland, are being held to reach a permanent ceasefire. A seven-day temporary ceasefire came into effect on Monday. Saudi Arabia is also expected to halt its attacks under the ceasefire.

Yemen has been under military attacks by Saudi Arabia since late March.

More than 7,500 people have been killed and over 14,000 others injured since March. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools and factories.

By Press TV