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Houthi missile hits US-owned ship off coast of Yemen

A missile fired by Houthi forces in Yemen hit a US-owned cargo ship near the Gulf of Aden.

Identified as the Gibraltar Eagle, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier, the ship was due to be heading towards the Suez Canal before rapidly turning around at the time of the attack.

The impact of the strike reportedly caused a fire in the cargo hold, though the ship is able to navigate and no injuries have been reported.

Three missiles were launched in total, with two not reaching the sea, and one hitting the carrier, according to maritime security company Ambrey.

UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) - which provides security information to merchant shipping - said the ship was struck some 110 miles (177km) southeast of the Yemeni city of Aden.

The vessel's US operator, Eagle Bulk Shipping, said the ship had suffered "limited damage" to the cargo hold but was "stable and was heading out of the area".

The ship was carrying a freight of steel products, it added.

The US military's Central Command blamed Houthi rebels for the strike, which the group later claimed responsibility for.

Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said all US and British ships and warships taking part in the "aggression" against Yemen would be targets for the group.

Soon after the attack, an official told Al Jazeera the movement will expand its targets to include US ships.

Houthi spokesperson Nasruldeen Amer said the United States was "on the verge of losing its maritime security".

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The incident comes less than a day after a US military jet shot down an anti-ship cruise missile fired by Houthi militants, without any reported injuries or damage sustained.

On Thursday night, the UK and US launched air strikes against a number of military facilities used by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, receiving non-operational support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands.

The UK government described the strikes as an act of "self defence" after branding attacks on commercial ships as "unacceptable".

Since November, the Houthis have repeatedly conducted assaults on vessels in the Red Sea with drones and rockets, and in some cases helicopters have dropped militants on to ships.

Rebels claim their actions are aimed at ending Israel's air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following the 7 October attacks by Hamas.

There are growing concerns about the global economic impact caused by the strife in the vital shipping route, as vessels have diverted, resulting in them using extra fuel and incurring other expenses - pushing up the cost of trade and adding to inflationary pressures.