Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to free 200 rebels as peace efforts gather speed

Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to free 200 rebels as peace efforts gather speed
2 min read
26 November, 2019
As well as releasing the 200 insurgents, the Saudi-led coalition said Sanaa airport would be re-opened to transport those needing urgent medical care.
Sanaa airport will re-open for those needing medical care, the Saudi-led coalition pledged [Getty]
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels said on Tuesday it will release 200 insurgents, as efforts to end the conflict in the war-ravaged country pick up pace.

It will also allow patients needing medical care to be flown out of Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since 2016, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.

The coalition had decided "to release 200 prisoners of the Houthi militia" and to facilitate "in cooperation with the World Health Organisation flights carrying people in need of medical care from Sanaa".

The coalition's three-year closure of Sanaa airport in Yemen's capital has amounted to a "death sentence" for thousands of sick civilians, preventing them from travelling abroad for urgent medical treatment, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE said in August.

In UN-brokered peace talks held in Sweden last year, the warring parties agreed on the re-opening of Sanaa's airport and the exchange of 15,000 detainees.

The move comes as efforts to end infighting in the country's south ramp up, with the secessionist and UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC)
signing a peace agreement with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.

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The Houthis offered in October to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative to end the devastating conflict, later repeating their proposal despite continued airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition. The move came after the rebel group released 290 prisoners.

The Iran-backed Houthis overran Sanaa in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year to try to restore the government to power.

The stalemate war has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world's most devastating humanitarian crisis.

The coalition's aerial bombardments on civilian targets and its de facto naval blockade on Yemen’s ports since its intervention in 2015 have played a key role in the nation's suffering.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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