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WASHINGTON: American forces shot down three attack drones near commercial ships in the Red Sea Friday and destroyed seven anti-ship cruise missiles positioned on land, the US military said.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting shipping for months and their attacks have persisted despite repeated American and British strikes aimed at degrading the rebels' ability to threaten a vital global trade route.

Early on Friday, US forces "shot down three Houthi one-way attack (drones) near several commercial ships operating in the Red Sea. There was no damage to any ships," the Central Command (CENTCOM) said on social media.

In a statement later in the day, CENTCOM said US forces destroyed "seven Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch towards the Red Sea."

It said those strikes , carried out between 12:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Sanaa time, were made in self-defense.

'Israeli' ship targeted by Houthis is Liberia-flagged, says Ambrey

"CENTCOM forces identified these missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region," it said in a statement.

The day prior, American forces struck four Houthi drones as well as two anti-ship cruise missiles, CENTCOM said, adding that the weapons "were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen towards the Red Sea."

The Houthis began attacking Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

US and UK forces responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

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