SANAA (Dispatches) – The Houthi Ansarullah movement in has offered the former Yemeni regime a prisoner swap involving 2,000 detainees after the movement unilaterally freed hundreds of prisoners last month.
It was the latest gesture toward easing tensions by Ansarullah who have for over four years been battling a Saudi-led military coalition loyal to the former regime that was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.
"We told the local mediators that we are ready to implement a prisoner exchange within one week. We are waiting for the other side to respond,” the head of the Ansarullah prisoner affairs committee, Abdul Qader al-Murtada, was quoted as saying by Houthi-run Al Masirah TV.
He said a deal would cover 2,000 prisoners in "a first phase”.
There was no immediate response from the former regime.
The offer came days after the Houthi movement released hundreds prisoners, including three Saudi nationals, in its latest goodwill gesture.
Through the release, the Ansarullah movement and its allies in the Yemeni army said they sought to underline their commitment to peace negotiations held in Sweden last December.
The talks with Yemen's Saudi-backed former government resulted in an agreement, which calls for a ceasefire in Hudaydah, a prisoner exchange and a statement of understanding on the southern city of Ta’izz.
The unilateral release of prisoners proved Ansarullah’s "credibility in implementing the Sweden agreement and we call on the other party to take a comparable step," the NCPA head said at the time.
The released detainees were "included in the prisoner lists of the Sweden deal," Mortada said in a press conference.
Mortada noted that the Ansarullah movement launched the initiative due to the big delay in the implementation of the prisoner swap deal.
President of the Supreme Political Council in the Yemeni capital, Mahdi al-Mashat, on September 20 said the Ansarullah movement would stop targeting Saudi territories with drones and ballistic missiles, hoping Riyadh would reciprocate the gesture.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the former regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power.
The U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000 over the past four and a half years.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.
File photo of detainees waiting for their release by the Ansarullah movement at the central prison of Sana'a, Yemen September 30, 2019.