Nov. 28 (UPI) — More than 100 Houthi prisoners of war returned to Yemen Thursday after being released by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Yemen’s main airport, which had been closed since 2016 by the Saudi-UAE coalition, reopened briefly to receive 128 of 200 freed Houthis, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which supervised the arrival.
“This release is excellent news for the freed detainees and their families in Yemen with whom they will be reunited,” Kedir Awol Omar, the ICRC’s head of mission in Saudi Arabia, said.
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, has thanked the Saudis for releasing the Yemenis, his office announced in a tweet.
Last December, warring parties reached an agreement in Sweden to release each other’s prisoners. Houthi rebels released 290 detainees in September.
At least 7,000 people have died since Yemen’s civil war began in 2015, but monitors believe the death toll could be as high as 100,000, including 12,000 civilians, the BBC reports.
In March 2015 Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and seized much of western Yemen, prompting an air campaign by Saudi Arabia and eight other countries to restore Hadi’s government.
The UN has described the conflict in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
“Over 10 million people are on the brink of starvation. The conflict needs to end so that millions of families can start rebuilding their lives,” said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.