Yemen rivals prepare to swap prisoners after exchanging insults

Yemen rivals prepare to swap prisoners after exchanging insults
Yemeni rebel and pro-government forces are preparing to hand over hundreds of captive fighters, despite a stalled ceasefire and a war of words between rival officials.
2 min read
16 December, 2015

Houthi rebels and pro-government forces are expected to exchange hundreds of captives today, as peace talks in Switzerland continue between rival officials.

A ceasefire accompanying the UN-sponsored negotiations has been broken with both sides exchanging accusations.

But it is hoped that the exchange of hundreds of fighters will bolster peace talks which have entered their second day.

Mokhtar al-Rabbash, a member of the prisoners' affairs committee, which is close to the internationally recognised government, said that 375 rebel detainees would be exchanged for 285 fighters loyal to Yemen President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The exchange "must be completed before the end of (Wednesday) in Jabal al-Orr", between the southern provinces of Bayda and Daleh, said Rabbash.

Vehicles carrying rebel fighters who are expected to be part of the deal have already left the pro-government southern city of Aden to the north.

Rannash said he expected captive pro-Hadi fighters imprisoned in Sanaa to be transferred to government-held territory on the same day.

However, the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Sanaa said the organisation was "not aware of such an exchange", according to AFP.

Yemen conflict timeline [click to enlarge]

Meanwhile, both sides continue to blame each other for breaking a seven due truce which began on Tuesday.

"Serious escalation by land, sea and air is taking place by the alliance in various areas," said pro-Houthi Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman. 

"We will not stay hand-tied but we will respond strongly towards the breaches that are taking place by the alliance and their mercenaries."

The Red Sea port city of Hodaida was shelled from the sea by pro-government forces, while fighting continued around the beseiged city of Taiz.

Five fighters from the Popular Resistance force and three civilians have died as a result of shelling in Taiz. At least 17 people were wounded according to pro-government sources.

The Saudi-led coalition said it would respond to any attacks by the Houthi rebels.

At least 6,000 people have been killed in Yemen - almost half of them civilians - since a Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign was launched against rebels in March in attempt to drive back the Houthis and restore the government.