Houthis in Yemen
Houthis in YemenReuters

A US MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday, a defense official confirmed to CBS News.

The official said the drone was operating in international airspace off of the coast of Yemen.

US Central Command officials are assessing the incident, the official said.

The confirmation from the US defense official came after a spokesperson for the Houthis in Yemen claimed on X that their air defenses had brought down the drone.

MQ-9s are used primarily for collecting intelligence but can also conduct strikes against targets.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have upped their attacks against Israel in recent weeks. Last week, the group released footage showing its members launching a missile towards Israel from Yemenite territory.

The footage was released after the Houthis confirmed that they launched a UAV towards Israel.

Shortly after the UAV was intercepted over the Red Sea, the IDF confirmed that the "Arrow" missile defense system had shot down a missile over the Red Sea as well.

In mid-October, a US Navy warship operating in the Middle East intercepted multiple projectiles near the coast of Yemen which were believed to have targeted Israel.

Days later, an explosion occurred at a medical facility in the Egyptian resort town of Taba, located near the Israeli border. Authorities suspect that the explosion was caused by a downed unmanned aircraft that was launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen and was directed towards Eilat.

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.