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First aircraft transporting freed Yemeni prisoners arrives at Aden airport

This file picture shows the airport in Yemen's southern city of Aden on January 3, 2021. (By Getty Images)

The first group of freed prisoners from the Yemeni army and fighters from their allied Popular Committees has arrived in the country’s southern coastal city of Aden, with the Saudi-led coalition asserting that the move is aimed to support UN efforts to solidify a two-month truce that went into effect early last month.

Coalition spokesman General Turki al-Malki said in a statement that three stages of airlifting prisoners to Sana’a and Aden would be completed on Friday.

According to Saudi-owned al-Arabiya and al-Hadath television news networks, the first plane, operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), carried 40 of the released prisoners to the Aden airport.

Dubai-based channels added that the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen would free 108 prisoners.

A spokesman for the ICRC told AFP that the organization was “facilitating the transfer of more than 100 former Yemeni detainees from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.”

The spokesman, Basheer Omar, said there would be three ICRC flights from the Saudi city of Abha to Aden.

Last week, Malki said the Riyadh-led military alliance would release 163 prisoners from the Yemeni army and Popular Committees, as part of what he termed a humanitarian initiative.

The coalition had already begun taking measures to release the prisoners in coordination with the ICRC, he said.

Earlier, Abdul Qader al-Murtada, head of the prisoner affairs committee in Yemen’s Sana’a-based National Salvation Government, said Yemeni authorities had made a new offer to the UN that included freeing 200 prisoners by each side.

The last major prisoner exchange, involving approximately 1,000 detainees, took place in 2020 as part of confidence-building steps agreed upon at the last peace talks held in 2018.

‘Dozen Yemeni patients die amid Saudi violation of truce’

At least 12 critically-ill Yemeni patients in need of life-saving treatment abroad have lost their lives, while waiting for flights promised by the UN and the Saudi-led coalition, a high-ranking Yemeni health official said Thursday.

Head of Yemen’s Supreme Medical Committee, Dr. Mutahar al-Darwish, denounced the coalition’s refusal to open Sana’a airport in accordance with the two-month UN-brokered truce, stating that the facility remains shut to humanitarian flights despite the fact that half of the ceasefire has passed.

Darwish said the deaths proved the falsehood of international organizations’ claims about humanity and aiding innocent civilians.

The continued restrictions imposed on Yemen’s airspace by the Saudi-led coalition have negatively affected critically-ill patients as they had completed necessary procedures in order to travel to the Jordanian capital Amman.

The head of Yemen’s Supreme Medical Committee then appealed to freedom-loving people and all international and humanitarian organizations to assume their responsibility towards the Yemeni nation and patients, save their lives, and not capitulate to the dictates of the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western states.

The objective was to bring back to power the Riyadh-friendly regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush the Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

The war has stopped well short of all of its goals, despite killing hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and turning the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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