Yemeni forces and Houthi rebels swap 194 prisoners in Taez
RIYADH // Houthi rebels and pro-government forces exchanged nearly 200 prisoners in Taez in central Yemen on Saturday, the largest such swap to take place in the embattled city since the beginning of a civil war last year.
The exchange of 118 Houthis and 76 pro-government fighters, will raise hopes that a ceasefire declared in April may be taking hold in Yemen’s third largest city after repeated violations.
The threat from an emerging common enemy may be galvanising the two sides’ efforts to cooperate. ISIL militants appear to be behind a rapid increase in suicide attacks and Al Qaeda fighters continue to hold sway over swathes of Yemen.
Fighting between the Iranian-backed Houthis and supporters of the internationally-backed government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi has eased in much of Yemen since they announced the truce before the start of UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait.
But the fighting has continued in Taez, with neither side able to extend control over the entire city. A rocket attack there in early June killed 12 civilians and wounded more than 122 others after it hit a busy market.
The conflict in Yemen has raged since March 2015, when a Saudi-led alliance intervened to try to restore Mr Hadi to power after the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and advanced on his temporary headquarters in Aden and forced him to flee to Saudi Arabia.
The talks in Kuwait have made little progress towards ending the war, which has killed more than 6,200 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, causing a severe humanitarian crisis.
More than 14 million Yemenis, more than half of the country’s population, are in need of emergency food and life-saving assistance, according to a report this month by the United Nations and the Yemeni government.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said on Thursday the kingdom now sought to prioritise fighting ISIL and other extremists in Yemen.
Updated: June 18, 2016 04:00 AM