Houthi terrorists
Houthi terroristsREUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

A drone attack damaged a merchant ship in the Red Sea near Yemen on Sunday, two maritime security agencies said, as the Houthi rebels announced naval attacks in the vital trade route, AFP reported.

The attack occurred about 65 nautical miles west of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which is run by Britain's Royal Navy.

"The Master of a merchant vessel reports being hit by uncrewed aerial system (UAS), resulting in damage to the vessel," said a bulletin from the agency.

The "vessel is proceeding to its next port of call" and initially reporting no casualties, it added. "Authorities are investigating."

British maritime security firm Ambrey said the vessel was "a Liberia-flagged, Greece-owned bulk carrier".

Later on Sunday, UKMTO said it received a distress call from a second vessel, this one off Yemen's southeastern coast, that had "suffered flooding that cannot be contained".

UKMTO did not specify what caused the incident.

"This has forced the master and crew to abandon the ship. They have been recovered by an assisting ship," UKMTO said in an incident report, adding that the flooded vessel "remains adrift".

The Houthis’ military spokesman, Yahya Saree, said in a statement later on Sunday that the rebel forces had targeted two ships, one in the Red Sea and the other in the Indian Ocean.

He said "a second targeting operation" against a vessel called Transworld Navigator used an UAS and "led to a direct hit".

A second vessel was targeted "with a number of cruise missiles".

The Iran-aligned Houthis have been targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea region since November, in what they say are attacks in solidarity with Palestinian Arabs in Gaza.

Sunday’s attacks come a day after the Houthis claimed that they attacked the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea, but two US officials disputed that claim.

"That is incorrect," one of the officials told Reuters.

In addition to claiming to have attacked the Eisenhower, the Houthis also said they attacked a commercial ship, Transworld Navigator, in the Arabian Sea.

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. They have since carried out several rounds of strikes against Houthi targets.

The Houthis have been unfazed by the strikes, saying that the campaign against the "Zionist enemy" will continue and that the attacks against the American and British ships will not stop.

This past Wednesday, Al Jazeera TV published footage showing an attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea against the MV Tutor ship about a week ago, using two explosive boats.

The Houthis claimed that the ship was attacked because its owner ignored warnings not to sail to Israeli ports.