AL-MUKALLA: Hundreds of Yemenis have been forced from their homes in the central province of Marib as the Houthis continued to attack government troops, according to the UN International Organization for Migration.
Fighting has raged between Yemeni forces and the Houthis over the last 10 days in the Harib district, south of Marib, and Merkhah Al-Ulya area, in the southern province of Shabwa, leaving scores of fighters dead or injured.
Between March 19 and 25, the IOM reported that 235 families (1,410 people) had been displaced in Marib, Hodeidah, and Taiz, while 2,030 families (12,180 people) had been relocated to different Yemeni provinces since January.
A UN-brokered truce that came into force in April last year resulted in a major decrease in hostilities in battlefields around the country, particularly in Marib, as well as a significant fall in internal displacements and civilian deaths.
But recent Houthi strikes against government troops in Harib, and for the first time in a year attacks on loyalists, in Merkhah Al-Ulya, have shattered hopes of a peace pact to end the conflict.
The government’s Shabwa Defense Forces said on Tuesday that they had repulsed a Houthi assault in Merkhah Al-Ulya and shot down a militia drone.
Meanwhile, Yemeni government officials and the Houthis have said that they would begin exchanging hundreds of captives on April 11 in a three-day operation that would be carried out by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Both sides agreed during the last round of prisoner-swap talks, that ended on March 20 in Switzerland, to exchange 887 detainees during the holy month of Ramadan.
Under the deal, the Yemeni government would hand over 706 Houthi prisoners for 181 government ones, including a former defense minister and four journalists condemned to death by the Houthis, and 19 coalition prisoners.
Majed Fadhail, deputy minister of human rights and a member of the government’s delegation, told Arab News that on the first day, an ICRC aircraft would transport Yemeni government prisoners, including Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi and the former president’s brother Nasser Mansour Hadi, from the Houthi-held Sanaa airport to Aden, before returning to Sanaa with Houthi prisoners.
On the second day, a plane would take captives of the Arab coalition from Sanaa to Saudi Arabia.
And on the final day, an aircraft would transport further government captives, including the four journalists, to Marib city before returning to Sanaa with Houthi inmates.
Abdulkader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthis’ prisoner exchange committee, said this week that they and the Yemeni government delegation had agreed to create committees that would visit prisons in Sanaa and Marib and that a fresh round of prisoner-swap talks would begin in May.
Al-Murtada added that the process would last three days, and that the ICRC would charter prisoners from Sanaa airport to airports in Aden, Riyadh, and Marib.
Separately, Yemeni officials and rights groups said the Houthis had increased their assault on inhabitants of the old city of Ibb who had participated in a rare anti-militia rally.
Activists on social media shared images of at least seven individuals recently kidnapped by the Houthis for attending the burial of a famous internet activist in Ibb and said that the Houthis were continuing to deploy military personnel and search properties in and around Ibb.
On Thursday, the burial of Hamdi Abdel-Razzaq, popularly known as Al-Mukahal, an influencer kidnapped by the Houthis in October for denouncing corruption, turned into a protest against Yemeni militia in Ibb.