Return of Houthi prisoners to capital, Sanaa, comes two days after the Saudi-led military coalition announced freeing 200 Houthis, a decision the UN hailed.

Senior Houthi official Mohammed Ali al Houthi has called for a
Senior Houthi official Mohammed Ali al Houthi has called for a "mass reception" to welcome the released rebels. (ICRC/ Twitter)

The Red Cross has repatriated from Saudi Arabia 128 Yemeni rebels, two days after a Saudi-led military coalition announced it would release 200 Houthi prisoners.

"A total of 128 detainees are being brought back to Yemen today from Saudi Arabia. Acting as a neutral intermediary, we are helping them return home to their families," the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Twitter.

"We welcome this initiative and we are pleased to see humanitarian considerations taken into account for the sake of the families waiting for their loved ones to return home."

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the Yemen war in March 2015 to back the internationally-recognised government, shortly after the Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa.

On Tuesday, the coalition said it had decided "to release 200 prisoners of the Houthi militia" and would also allow patients needing medical care to be flown out of Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since 2016.

UN welcomes coalition's decision

UN envoy Martin Griffiths on Tuesday also welcomed the Saudi-led coalition's decision to release the rebels after meeting with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi deputy defence minister.

The initiatives coincide with a lull in Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and come after a senior official in Riyadh this month said it had an "open channel" with the rebels.

The decision was hailed by the Houthis, with senior official Mohammed Ali al Houthi calling for a "mass reception" to welcome the released rebels.

Since 2015, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the Yemen conflict, which the UN has termed the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies