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DUBAI: A drone attack damaged a merchant ship in the Red Sea near Yemen early Sunday morning, though no injuries were reported, according to a British maritime security agency.

Vessels in and around the Red Sea, which is vital to world trade, have come under repeated attack for months by Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen. The rebels say they are acting in support of Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

The attack occurred about 65 nautical miles (120 kilometres) west of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which is run by the Britain’s Royal Navy.

“The Master of a merchant vessel reports being hit by uncrewed aerial system (UAS), resulting in damage to the vessel. All crew members are reported safe, and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” said a bulletin from the agency.

“Authorities are investigating,” it added.

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”, without specifying 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”.

On Saturday, United States Central Command, which has carried out retaliatory strikes against Huthi targets over their attacks on shipping, said it had destroyed three nautical drones belonging to the group over the previous 24 hours.

“It was determined these systems presented an imminent threat to US, coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region,” Central Command said.

It also said the rebels had launched three anti-ship missiles into the Gulf of Aden, but no injuries or significant damage were reported.

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