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US coalition warship shoots down missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels over the Gulf of Aden

JERUSALEM (AP) — A warship — part of a U.S.-led coalition protecting shipping in the Mideast — intercepted an anti-ship ballistic missile fired over the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday, the American military said, marking a new attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels after a recent lull.

The Houthis claimed the assault, which comes after a period of relatively few rebel attacks on shipping in the region over Israel's ongoing war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The explosion happened some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said in a statement.

Early Thursday, the U.S. military's Central Command said a coalition warship shot down the missile likely targeting the MV Yorktown, a U.S.-flagged, owned and operated vessel with 18 U.S. and four Greek crew members.

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“There were no injuries or damage reported by U.S., coalition or commercial ships," Central Command said.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesman, claimed the attack but insisted without evidence that the missile hit the Yorktown. Saree also claimed the Houthis targeted another ship in the Indian Ocean, without providing proof. The Houthis have made repeated claims that turned out to not be true during their yearslong war in Yemen.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sank another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the rebels have been targeted by a U.S.-led airstrike campaign in Yemen and shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has declined because of the threat. American officials have speculated that the rebels may be running out of weapons as a result of the U.S.-led campaign against them and firing off drones and missiles steadily in the last months.

The Houthis have said they would continue their attacks until Israel ends its war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 others hostage.

The ships targeted by the Houthis largely have had little or no direct connection to Israel, the U.S. or other nations involved in the war. The rebels have also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.

The assaults on shipping have raised the profile of the Houthis, who are members of Islam’s minority Shiite Zaydi sect, which ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962. The group seized Sanaa, Yemen's capital, in late 2014. A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the group in a stalemated conflict since 2015.

Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press