Yemen’s warring parties agreed on Wednesday to exchange hundreds of prisoners in a move aimed at supporting UN-sponsored peace talks which resumed for a second day in Switzerland, as reported fighting and airstrikes appeared to violate a cease-fire.
A seven-day truce, timed to coincide with the peace talks, began at mid-day on Tuesday to halt fighting in nine months of civil war between the Iran-allied Houthi movement based in Yemen’s north and Saudi-backed southern and eastern fighters loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The prisoner swap would be one of the most positive signs yet in the civil war, which has killed almost 6,000 people and drawn in foreign powers.
Some 360 members of the Houthi movement held in Aden would be exchanged for 265 southern civilians and fighters, and both groups were en route by bus toward the exchange venue in central Yemen according to officials from the warring sides.
The fragile cease-fire appeared to be generally holding Wednesday despite breaches.
Although fighting has subsided, both sides traded blame for violations that have left at least 24 people dead since the truce began at midday (0900 GMT) Tuesday.
The Saudi-led coalition accused the Houthi Shiite rebels of flouting the cease-fire from its very first hours, and acknowledged that it had “responded to these violations”.
The rebels, meanwhile, accused the coalition of breaking the truce immediately after it began by carrying out “a series of raids on various provinces”.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed Al-Assiri, said that the alliance’s leadership “realizes that this is an important and crucial phase to find a peaceful solution, but has a military commitment to respond to violations.”