Accusations of ceasefire violations fly from both directions just hours after local-level prisoner swap.
The assassination of a prominent Yemeni brigadier-general by Houthi fighters was ordered by high-ranking rebel commanders, according to audio recordings recently obtained by Al Jazeera.
Brigadier-General Hameed al-Qushaibi, who was head of the Yemeni army’s Brigade 310, was captuerd in July 2014 and shot dead by eight Houthi gunmen in Amran, a city situated around 50 kilometres north of Sanaa.
The recordings include phone conversations believed to be between several influential Houthi military leaders, including field commander Youssef al-Madani and military commander Abu Ali al-Hakim.
Both Madani and Hakim were reportedly killed in air strikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen in 2015.
During the phone conversations, it is revealed that the Houthi rebels viewed Qushaibi’s assassination as revenge for the 2004 killing of the group’s founder, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi.
In one conversation which appears to be between Houthi commander Abdullah al-Hasani and Madani, the former informs the latter that fighters had already killed Qushaibi.
Madani asks Hasani if he was certain that the man they killed was Qushaibi, to which he replies: “We’ve cut him into pieces.”
Explaining that they also shot several of Qushaibi’s fighters, Hasani adds, “I knew him.”
The conversations show that the Houthi leadership decided to conceal the truth about who killed the general, instead planning to claim he committed suicide.
A coalition of Arab countries launched an air campaign in March 2015 to push back the Houthis, but the rebels still control the capital and many parts of the country.
The Houthis, who claim to champion the interests of the beleaguered Zaidi Shia community, say they are fighting to defend themselves against marginalisation.
About 9,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention began, the majority of them civilians, according to United Nations figures. The fighting has also driven 2.8 million people from their homes.
At least 14 million Yemenis, more than half of the country’s population, are in need of emergency food and life-saving assistance in order to prevent impending famine in almost half of Yemen’s 22 provinces, according to a report this month by the UN and the Yemeni government.
The 15-month conflict has taken a horrifying toll on the country’s youth, with UNICEF warning that an estimated 320,000 children face life-threatening malnutrition.