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U.S. conducts new airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthi terrorists

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates— The U.S. military conducted new airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthi terrorists, officials said Friday.

American forces destroyed four explosive-loaded drone boats and seven mobile anti-ship cruise missile launchers Thursday that could target vessels in the Red Sea, the U.S. military’s Central Command said.

“They presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” Central Command said. “These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels.”

The Houthis have not acknowledged the losses.

Since November, the terrorists have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive in Gaza, triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist in attack, in which 1,200 were killed and another 250 were taken hostage. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel.

In recent weeks, the United States and the United Kingdom, backed by other allies, have launched airstrikes targeting Houthi missile arsenals and launch sites for its attacks.

A German frigate set sail Thursday to take part in the European Union mission to help defend cargo ships from Houthi attacks.

EU foreign ministers are expected to sign off on a Red Sea mission on Feb. 19 with seven countries ready to provide ships or planes.

The Hessen, carrying about 240 sailors, is expected to be in place once the EU mission has the official go-ahead and the German parliament has approved its participation.

Egypt pushes back

Meanwhile, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi denied he initially opposed allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing until President Joe Biden convinced him otherwise.

“From the first moment, Egypt has opened the Rafah border crossing from its side without any restrictions or conditions and has mobilized massive humanitarian aid and relief,” the Egyptian leader said in an official statement Friday.

A day earlier, Biden took credit for convincing el-Sissi — whom he mistakenly called the president of Mexico — to open the Rafah crossing for aid. “I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate,” Biden said at a news conference.

Egypt at the time repeatedly said it wanted to open the crossing to let aid enter. Its reluctance was more focused on allowing a limited number of people out of Gaza onto its soil — fearing a mass influx of refugees.

Finishing the job

In Israel, Chants of “Now! Now! Now!” ring out at nearly every protest imploring the government to do everything possible to win the immediate release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas.

But a small group of hostages’ families is pushing a different message: Let the army first finish the job of defeating the terrorist group, even if that delays the return of their loved ones.

These families argue that the price to be paid in any hostage deal — the release of large numbers of Palestinian terrorists held by Israel — would endanger the country in the future.

“When you release terrorists, they will return to murder. That’s how it has always been,” said Tzvika Mor, whose son Eitan, 23, was abducted four months ago from the Nova music festival, where he was working as a security guard.

“How can you stand in front of people and say, ‘I want my son back, and I don’t care about you?’” Mor told The Associated Press by phone. “Instead of us only worrying about our son, we are concerned for the whole country.”

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