Yemen Releases American Hostages in Prisoner Swap

Two American hostages, plus the remains of a third, returned to the United States from Yemen on Wednesday. What happened?


As part of a series of peace deals, two Americans returned home after more than a year of detainment in Yemen.

  • US aid worker Sandra Loli and businessman Mikael Gidada returned to the United States on Wednesday, in an apparent exchange backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia which returned 240 Houthi rebel fighters to Yemen from Oman the same day. The remains of a third American, Bilal Fateen, were also repatriated as part of the deal.
  • Yesterday and today, in a separate UN-brokered peace deal, a total of 1,081 other prisoners will return home, including 15 Saudis, as part of an agreement between the Saudi Arabian Military Coalition and Yemen’s Houthi Movement.
  • The deals, brokered by the UN and logistically managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, are the first of their kind in the five-year conflict in Yemen.
  • The exchanges are largely symbolic, renewing hope that peace talks could resume in an end to the devastating conflict in Yemen.
  • Yemen has been in a protracted conflict since 2011, when its longtime president Ali Abdulleh Saleh was deposed as part of the Arab Spring revolts. He handed power over to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, but Hadi struggled to maintain stability and a rebel movement took control of part of the country and forced Hadi into exile. The rebel movement, a Shia Muslim movement called the Houthis, has backing from Iran, a Shia-majority country.
  • Saudi Arabia, a geopolitical rival of Iran, became involved in the conflict in 2015 (along with several other Sunni Arab states) launched airstrikes in an effort to suppress the Houthi rebellion. The United States backed Saudi Arabia in the conflict.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Reports that US involvement in the prisoner swap with Saudi Arabia is unconfirmed, and is hesitant to give credit to Donald Trump for the prisoner swap.
  • Points out that Trump takes great pride in his track record for bringing Americans home from hostage situations abroad.
  • Shares the harrowing stories of the detainees, and is generally sympathetic to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.



  • Gives full credit to Donald Trump and his administration for the deal.
  • Highlights the overwhelming gratitude expressed by the hostages’ families upon their return.
  • Lauds Trump for negotiating the deal.


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© Evelyn Torsher, 2020