Yemen's Houthis release United States nationals

National security adviser Robert O'Brien said that in addition to the two hostages returning to the United States the remains of Bilal Fateen would be repatriated. File

National security adviser Robert O'Brien said that in addition to the two hostages returning to the United States the remains of Bilal Fateen would be repatriated. File

President Donald Trump "continues to prioritize securing the release and repatriation of Americans held hostage overseas", O'Brien said in a statement. Sandra Loli, a US aid worker held hostage for three years, and businessman Mikael Gidada, detained for a year, were flown to Oman, along with the remains of Bilal Fateen.

Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to Trump who worked on the deal, told The Wall Street Journal that Loli had been held by the Houthis for about three years and Gidada was held captive for about a year.

Authorities in Yemen's Sanaa have released U.S. nationals at the request of Oman, Omani state media reported late on Wednesday, without giving any more details, Reuters reports.

Kieran Ramsey, director of the administration's hostage recovery cell, said Loli and Gidada would soon be on their way back to the United States.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted that the 240 or so Yemenis who returned to the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, included people who had either been stranded in Oman or were casualties of war who had travelled there during UN-brokered peace talks held in Sweden in 2018.

Saudi Arabia, which has been battling the Iranian-backed Houthis in a bloody civil war since 2014, was "especially concerned about three dozen Houthi fighters being sent back to Yemen who they said had received specialized training in Iran on drones and missiles", the Journal reports.

Yemen, the size of California and home to over 29 million people, faces the world's worst humanitarian crisis - on the brink of starvation and reeling from COVID-19, cholera, malnutrition and the destruction of hospitals.

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A much-anticipated swap between Yemen's internationally recognised, Saudi-backed government and the Houthi rebels had been expected to take place on Thursday. A Royal Oman Air Force plane flew them out of Sana'a, Yemen, shortly after the aid and militants were delivered to the rebels.

Oman sent two flights to Sanaa which also carried back 250 Yemenis who had been receiving treatment in the Gulf state and overseas, the Oman report said.

The Wall Street Journal reported the deal also included some "medical aid" to Yemen, which the USA official confirmed without offering more details.

But aid groups have warned that the USA policy and a lack of funding from other countries are having a dire effect amid desperate need in the country, as ABC News reported a few weeks ago.

"The United States has been a significant donor, providing humanitarian resources for the region".

The operation was reportedly overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Those cuts mean reducing services at 300 health centers and in food distributions across the country.

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