By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The UN's special envoy for Yemen welcomed the release Monday of hundreds of detainees by the country's Houthi rebel forces.
“I hope this step will lead to further initiatives that will facilitate the exchange of all the conflict-related detainees," Martin Griffiths said in a statement. "I also welcome the previous steps taken by the Government of Yemen and the Arab Coalition that led to the release of Yemeni minors and supported their reintegration with their families."
The Houthis said it freed 350 captives, including three Saudis, according to the Houthi-run Al-Masirah T.V. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which facilitated the releases, said the group released 290 captives.
In December, Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Stockholm which yielded a cease-fire agreement in the Red Sea port city of al-Hudaydah.
The warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from the city amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.
Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while another 14 million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.