Oil tanker in the Persian Gulf (archive)
Oil tanker in the Persian Gulf (archive)iStock

A US Navy vessel responded to a distress call from the chemical tanker Central Park, which was seized off the coast of Aden, Yemen, and ensured that it was safe and free, two US officials told Reuters on Sunday.

One of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the USS Mason had helped ensure that the tanker was safe.

"US and coalition forces are in the vicinity and we are closely monitoring the situation," one of the US officials said.

CENTCOM later said that two ballistic missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen in the direction of the USS Mason.

The missiles landed in the Gulf of Aden about 11 miles from the ship, and no injuries or damage were reported, according to The Associated Press.

The missiles were fired as Mason was "concluding its response" to the distress call from The Central Park, CENTCOM said.

Earlier, unidentified armed individuals had seized the tanker, which is carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid, in the Gulf of Aden.

The Central Park is managed and owned by Zodiac Maritime, a company owned by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofir.

While it was not clear who was behind the attack, Sunday’s incident follows last week’s seizure by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of an of the Galaxy Leader, a British-owned cargo ship that was managed by a Japanese company and manned by an international crew but assumed to be linked to Israel.

The Houthis did not comment on Sunday’s seizure but it has previously vowed to target more Israeli vessels.

The group has also fired missiles at Israel several times since the start of the war against Hamas.

The Houthis took control of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in 2014, launching a years-long civil war against the internationally recognized government of Yemen.

It has long been believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthis to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to Eilat.

Iran denies it is backing the Houthis and has also denied Saudi Arabian accusations that Tehran provided the Houthi rebels in Yemen with ballistic capabilities.