The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) sets sail in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, July 14, 2019.

Yoruk Isik | Reuters

A U.S. naval ship shot down several Houthi drones after commercial vessels were attacked in the Red Sea, the Pentagon reported on Sunday, the same day Yemen’s Houthi rebel group said it had targeted two Israeli ships there.

“We’re aware of reports regarding attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea and will provide information as it becomes available,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Later in the day, a National Security Council official said that preliminary assessments of the situation show that only the commercial ships, not the Carney, were targeted.

The attacks on took place over several hours and are believed to have come from Houthi missiles, according to defense officials, which would represent an escalation of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The Carney, a U.S. naval destroyer, observed a ballistic missile fired at a civilian commercial ship named the “Unity Explorer” and then responded to distress reports from the vessel. As it assisted the Unity Explorer, the Carney destroyed another Houthi drone headed towards itself and the Unity Explorer.

The Iran-backed Houthi group said in a statement on Sunday it had launched missile and drone attacks against two ships it believed were connected to Israel in the Red Sea’s Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, also known as the Gate of Tears.

The Houthi statement didn’t mention any attacks on U.S. ships, only the “Unity Explorer” and the “Number Nine,” both of which the group said are associated with Israel.

“The Yemeni armed forces continue to prevent Israeli ships from navigating the Red and Arab Seas until the Israeli aggression against our steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops,” the Houthis said.

Yemen’s military has previously warned that all Israeli ships or any entities connected to Israel will be a “legitimate target” for attack until the war in Gaza end. In November, the group said it had captured an Israeli ship.

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