The Houthi-led National Salvation Government in Yemen released 32 Egyptian fishermen on Tuesday. The men had been arrested by the Yemeni Coast Guard after illegally entering the country’s territorial waters.
According to the Yemeni Press Agency, the move came after an amnesty issued by the President of the Supreme Political Council, Mahdi Al-Mashat. An Egyptian aircraft with government officials on board arrived at Sanaa International Airport yesterday to collect the fishermen who have since returned to their own country, where they were met by ministers waving Egyptian flags.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi also welcomed the fishermen’s release, saying on Twitter that through “intensive efforts” the lives of the men were saved and they were returned home safely. He also expressed gratitude to those who took them back to Egypt.
The National reported that Egyptian Immigration Minister Nabila Makram told Egypt’s CBC Extra that the government had been trying to negotiate the release of the fishermen with the help of the Yemeni and Saudi authorities since mid-December.
Yemen’s territorial waters have become particularly dangerous since the start of the war. Last year, Al-Mashat told an interviewer that, “Any oil site or ship carrying oil in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea would be legitimate targets for us to stop the aggression.” That was a reference to the ongoing Saudi-led coalition offensive and siege imposed on Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Egypt is a member of the anti-Houthi coalition that intervened militarily in Yemen in March 2015 following the ousting of international-recognised President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi who is currently in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh. However, Egypt has a limited role in the conflict, mainly consisting of maritime patrols and reconnaissance missions.
Established in 2016, the National Salvation Government has been governing the Yemeni capital Sanaa and much of the north with the majority-support of the Yemeni armed forces, following the September 21 Revolution in 2014.