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Houthis propose exchange of captured Saudi pilot for Hamas prisoners

A Saudi fighter Tornado crashed in Yemen in mid-February [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 27 March, 2020

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The leader of Yemen's Houthi proposed to exchange captured Saudi soldiers for Hamas detainees in Saudi Arabia's prisons.
Yemen's rebel Houthi group has proposed the exchange of captured Saudi soldiers, including a missing pilot, for the release of Palestinian prisoners by Riyadh.

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi announced on Thursday they were prepared to conduct a prisoner exchange, Arabi21 reported, after revealing they had captured a crew member of a Saudi fighter plane.

Houthi said they were prepared to release the captured pilot, along with four other soldiers, in exchange for the release of Hamas detainees from Saudi prisons.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine welcomed the release of Saudi soldiers in exchange for Saudi Arabia's release of Palestinian detainees on Friday.

The fate of the crew of the Saudi warplane that crashed in Yemen's northern Al-Jawf border governorate has been uncertain since mid-February, when Iran-linked Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down the aircraft.

The Riyadh-led military coalition fighting the rebels said in February that two officers ejected from the plane before it crashed in Al-Jawf province but that the rebels opened fire at them "in violation of international humanitarian law".

The rebels released footage of what they called the launch of their "advanced surface-to-air missile" and the moment it purportedly struck the jet in the night sky, sending it crashing down in a ball of flames.

A source close to the Houthi group has now revealed to Arabi21 that one of the pilots in the Saudi fighter Tornado is alive, without providing details as to the condition of the second pilot.

A second source said that the pilots were found by residents of the al-Zulfan area, which handed them over to the Houthis. 

The crash triggered air strikes in the area where the plane went down, an apparent Saudi-led retaliation that the UN said left 31 civilians dead and 12 others wounded.

The Saudi-led US-backed coalition intervened against the Houthis in 2015, in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and sparked what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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