The prisoner exchange is the first sign of progress since the two sides in late 2018 agreed to a piecemeal cease-fire as a step to end the nearly six-year war—a conflict that has drawn in the Middle East’s major military powers and killed tens of thousands of civilians.
The swap comes a day after the Iran-backed rebels freed two American hostages, and the remains of a third, in return for more than 200 Houthi loyalists who returned to the group’s stronghold Sana’a from Oman.
The two exchanges don’t appear directly linked, as Thursday’s swap was cemented in 2018 as part of a peace process mediated by the U.N. Meanwhile, the U.S. detainees were released with Omani help. But taken together, both moves signal rare pragmatism between the warring sides to try to restart a stagnant peace process.
U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has for two years tried to find ways to end the war. The U.N. agreement, reached in Stockholm, eased fighting, but skirmishes have continued and talks have suffered repeated setbacks.
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