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Red Cross to repatriate 128 Yemen rebels from Saudi Arabia

Red Cross to repatriate 128 Yemen rebels from Saudi Arabia

SANAA: The Red Cross in Sanaa said on Thursday it would repatriate from Saudi Arabia 128 Yemeni rebels, two days after a Saudi-led military coalition announced it would release 200 prisoners. 

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the Yemen war in March 2015 to back the internationally recognised government, shortly after the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa. 

On Tuesday, the coalition said it had decided “to release 200 prisoners of the Huthi militia” and would also allow patients needing medical care to be flown out of Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since 2016. 

“Today (Thursday) we are repatriating 128 detainees from KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to Sanaa,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Twitter. 

“We welcome this initiative and we are pleased to see humanitarian considerations taken into account for the sake of the families waiting for their loved ones to return home.”

United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths on Tuesday also welcomed the Saudi-led coalition’s decision to release the rebels after meeting with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi deputy defence minister. 

“Griffiths thanked KSA for announcing the release of the 200 detainees and the opening of Sanaa airport for mercy flights that would allow Yemenis to receive much-needed medical treatment abroad,” his office tweeted.

The initiatives coincide with a lull in Huthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and come after a senior official in Riyadh this month said it had an “open channel” with the Iran-aligned rebels.

The decision was hailed by the Huthis, with senior official Mohammed Ali al-Huthi calling for a “mass reception” to welcome the released rebels. 

Since 2015, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the Yemen conflict, which the UN has termed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 

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