A British-owned ship came under attack in the Red Sea as part of an hours-long assault by Iranian-backed rebels which forced a US warship to open fire in self-defence.

The Bahamas-flagged Unity Explorer, owned by a British company, was among two commercial vessels targeted in the drone and missile assault on Sunday, according to reports by AP.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney reportedly shot down two drones in the attack after responding to a call for assistance from the bulk carrier. 

The British military was reported to have said there had been a suspected drone attack and explosions in the Red Sea. 

Yemen’s Houthis have been launching a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as launching drones and missiles targeting Israel in response to its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Earlier in November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship also linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen.

Missiles also landed near another US warship last week after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had briefly been seized by gunmen.

The Ministry of Defence has been contacted for comment.