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Yemen’s warring sides, Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia, exchange 64 fallen troops

Yemen’s warring sides have exchanged 64 bodies of their fallen, local media and tribal leaders said. The handover between the country’s Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia marked the latest in reconciliation efforts amid Yemen’s yearslong conflict.

The rare exchange took place on Wednesday near the Saudi border town of Nahran, according to the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV and three tribal leaders. All three tribesmen spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals.

The TV reported that remans of 58 rebels were handed over by Riyadh, while the Iran-backed Shiite rebels handed over the bodies of six Saudi soldiers. There was no immediate comment from the kingdom on the exchange.

The handover marked the third exchange of bodies between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia since the war began, al-Masirah TV said. The two sides have also exchanged prisoners in organized swaps brokered by the United Nations.

Yemen’s civil war erupted in 2014 when the Houthis swept down from their northern stronghold and removed the internationally recognized government from the capital of Sanaa, forcing it first to the south, then into exhile in Saudi Arabia.

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Yemen’s warring sides have exchanged 64 bodies of their fallen, the latest in reconciliation efforts amid the country’s yearslong conflict.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to try and restore the government to power. In time, the conflict turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The war has devastated Yemen, already the Arab poorest country, and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. More than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, have been killed.

In recent months, Saudi and Houthi officials have repeatedly met for talks aimed at a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The talks gained momentum earlier this year when Saudi Arabia and Iran, the main foreign backer of the Houthis, reached an agreement to restore diplomatic ties after years of frayed relations.

In another sign of easing tensions, a commercial flight carrying over 270 Yemeni Muslim pilgrims departed last week from the Houthi-held Sanaa to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, the pilgrimage that is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all Muslims physically and financially able to make the journey.

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