Houthi terrorists
Houthi terroristsREUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an attack on a UK-owned cargo ship and a drone assault on an American destroyer on Thursday, adding they targeted Israel's port and resort city of Eilat with ballistic missiles and drones, Reuters reported.

The statement by a Houthi representative on social media site X came shortly after the group's leader said the Houthis were ramping up attacks on ships in the Red Sea and other waters - including with new "submarine weapons" - to mirror Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip.

"Operations in the Red and Arabian Seas, Bab al-Mandab Strait, and the Gulf of Aden are continuing, escalating, and effective," Abdul Malik al-Houthi added in a televised speech, as quoted by Reuters. He gave no details of the submarine weapons.

Earlier on Thursday, two missiles set ablaze a ship some 70 nautical miles southeast of Aden, Yemen, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said. The vessel and crew were reported safe and are proceeding to the next port of call, it said in a later update.

That UK-owned, Palau-flagged ship, the Islander, was en route to Egypt from Thailand, according to British maritime security firm Ambrey and ship tracking data.

The US military's Central Command (CENTCOM) later said that the US shot down six Houthi drones in the Red Sea after they were identified as an imminent threat to US and allied warships.

Those incidents came after the Arrow missile system intercepted a target in the area of the Red Sea near the city of Eilat.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have upped their attacks on vessels since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

In the wake of the uptick in Houthi attacks, the US formed a coalition, made up of more than 20 countries, aimed at safeguarding commercial traffic in the Red Sea from attacks by the Houthis.

In mid-January, with support from other countries, the US and Britain targeted just under 30 Houthi locations with 150 different weapons. The two countries have continued to strike Houthi targets since.