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Yemeni official demands full implementation of prisoner swap ahead of Ramadan

A file photo of detainees waiting for their release by the Ansarullah movement at the central prison of Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, on September 30, 2019 (by Reuters)

A high-ranking member of Yemen's Supreme Political Council has called for the full implementation of a prisoner exchange agreement between the Ansarullah movement and a Saudi-backed former regime ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi made the plea in a tweet late on Monday, demanding the enforcement of a prisoner exchange that includes all inmates in Yemen's war without exception as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

He also blamed the aggressor states of the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and their allies as well as the United Nations (UN) for any potential delay in the exchange of prisoners.

"With the advent of the blessed month of Ramadan, we demand a full exchange of prisoners. We hold the American, British, Saudi, and Emirati aggression, their allies, and the United Nations responsible for any delay," Houthi wrote in the tweet.

"This is a humanitarian case that should not be subject to the selection of specific lists or the demands of the relatives of mercenaries at the expense of others," he added. "Everyone must be considered equally in this agreement."

The Yemeni army and allied Popular Committees along with militiamen loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi announced readiness last October to swap more than 1,000 prisoners under a UN-brokered peace deal that had been struck in Switzerland a month earlier.

The latest round of prisoner swap talks in Jordan with the aim of freeing a total of 300 inmates from both sides failed in February.

The development came as Yemeni troops continued with an offensive to take control of Ma'rib from Hadi's militiamen. The city is Hadi's last urban stronghold in northern Yemen, which is some 120 km east of the capital, Sana'a.

Saudi Arabia, backed by the US and other regional allies, launched a devastating war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing Hadi's government back to power.

The Saudi-led military aggression has left hundreds of thousands of Yemenis dead, and displaced millions of people. It has also destroyed Yemen's infrastructure and spread famine and infectious diseases across the country.

The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

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