Al Mukalla: Al Houthi’s wide-ranging crackdown against the supporters of assassinated former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have greatly reduced hopes of peace and an end to more than three years of bloody conflict, Yemen’s foreign minister said.

In an interview with the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, Abdul Malek Al Mekhlafi said his government and the international community have lost faith in the Al Houthi militia as an effective partner in peace, after its ruthless killing of Saleh and their subsequent mass attacks against his supporters. “We are facing a militia and a gang that has committed all crimes, including detaining women and destroying houses,” Al Mekhlafi said.

By evacuating their remaining diplomats and aid workers, Al Mekhlafi said, the international community has abandoned hope of reaching peace with Al Houthis and the internationally-recognised government, with the help of the Saudi-led coalition, would push for military operations as possible solutions to the Yemeni crisis.

Political watchers believe Al Houthis have lost an important political partner after the killing of Saleh and the execution and detention of his supporters. Al Houthis executed Aref Al Zoukha, the secretary general of Saleh’s General People’s Congress party and a member of Saleh-Al Houthi joint delegation in peace talks in Kuwait.

Despite downplaying any possibility of making a deal with Al Houthis, Al Mekhlafi said Al Houthis should first halt sweeping arrests of Saleh’s supporters and publicly announce compliance with UN Security Council resolution 2216 that calls for them to disarm, pull out of main cities and recognise the authority of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Al Houthis should also end their siege of the southern city of Taiz, and release thousands of politicians, military officers and activists. “It is impossible that they would put those steps into place. So the Yemeni government, supported by the Arab coalition, will go ahead with its [military] efforts until the liberation of Yemen,” Al Mekhlafi said.

Exploiting the growing popular resentment against Al Houthis, Al Mekhlafi said Hadi’s government had engaged in talks with political, social and tribal forces, including those who recently defected from Al Houthi movement, to form a joint bloc to confront Al Houthis. “We seek to isolate Al Houthis.”

Meanwhile, on the ground, government forces announced on Monday they had liberated a number of hilly positions in Nehim district, just outside Al Houthi-held Sana’a. Yemen’s Defence Ministry also said government forces have purged Al Houthis from mountains in Shabwa’s Ouselan district. On Friday, Hadi’s government announced liberating Bayhan town, Al Houthi’s last urban bastion in Shabwa province.