Yemen forces, Houthis free 135 in prisoner swap



Members of the Yemeni pro-government forces who were reportedly imprisoned in the hands of Houthis gesture during a prisoners swap in Taez on December 19th. [Ahmad al-Basha/AFP]

Yemeni forces and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) on Thursday (December 19th) exchanged 135 prisoners in the hotly contested city of Taez, Yemeni military sources said.

The exchange in the south-western Yemen city, held by forces that back the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi but long surrounded by the Houthis, came after tribal mediation, one of the sources said.

The Houthis freed 75 hostages in exchange for pro-government forces releasing 60 of their fighters, the source added.

The trade is the latest in a string of prisoner swaps and release deals since a 2018 UN-mediated agreement to exchange some 15,000 prisoners.

The landmark agreement signed in Sweden in December last year was hailed as Yemen's best chance so far to end a war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine and left tens of thousands dead, according to aid groups.

On Tuesday, 11 prisoners (five Yemeni soldiers and six Houthis) were exchanged in the northern province of Jawf following another tribal mediation, according to a military source.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in November repatriated to Sanaa 128 Yemeni Houthis freed by Saudi Arabia, which leads the Arab coalition fighting in support of Yemen's legitimate government.

That came after the Houthis released 290 prisoners in late September, the ICRC said.

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