Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has set free an ailing Saudi prisoner on humanitarian grounds, in a move that could boost ongoing UN-led efforts to end the bloody Saudi-led war against the country and broker peace there.
Head of Yemen’s National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Abdulqader al-Mortadha, said on Tuesday that Ansarullah leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi had ordered the release of the Saudi trooper, identified as Musa al-Awaji, “on compassionate grounds” due to his deteriorating health condition.
The soldier was repatriated by a plane by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), according to the official.
Mortadha highlighted that the United Nations officials in addition to a number of tribal and social figures had approached Saudi authorities over the past two weeks in the hope of securing an urgent exchange of the sick Saudi soldier with a group of wounded Yemeni fighters, but to no avail.
Ansarullah, having witnessed the Saudi regime’s utter disregard for the soldier and his worsening condition, decided to free him as a humanitarian gesture, the Yemeni official pointed out.
Ansarullah’s move was praised by the United Nations’ special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who expressed hope on Twitter for “more similar humanitarian gestures from the parties” to the conflict in Yemen.
The UN official also said he looked forward to the implementation of a prisoner exchange agreement reached between Yemen’s Houthi movement and the Saudi-backed regime of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi during UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden last month.
The two warring parties have not yet agreed full terms of the prisoner swap deal.
The United Nations is working to facilitate the exchange as well as the implementation of a landmark truce deal, which was signed between the warring sides in Sweden for the main port city of Hudaydah, to set the stage for a new round of negotiations between the two sides.
More Saudi bloodshed
Separately on Tuesday, a civilian lost his life and another sustained injuries when Saudi military aircraft struck al-Mandala area in the Kushar district of Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah.
Saudi warplanes also launched five airstrikes against an area in the al-Qaflah district of the northwestern Yemeni province of ‘Amran. There were no immediate reports about possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.
Moreover, scores of Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to Hadi were killed and injured when Yemeni army soldiers and allied fighters from Popular Committees targeted them with bombs near al-Sadis military base in Saudi Arabia’s southern region of Najran.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing Hadi’s government back to power and crushing Ansarullah.
According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.
The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
A number of Western countries, the US and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.