Underwater Data Cables Cut Following Houthi Threat

Underwater Data Cables Cut Following Houthi Threat

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It is speculated that Yemen’s Houthi rebels cut three cables under the Red Sea that provide global internet and telecommunications, though it is still unclear what cut the lines.

We have previously reported the concerns about the undersea cables being targeted by the Houthis as part of their campaign to “pressure Israel to end its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip”. However, the Houthis have denied attacking the lines.

This months-long crisis has disrupted global shipping through the Red Sea (a crucial route for cargo and energy shipments from Asia and the Middle East to Europe), and this recent sabotage of telecommunication lines could further escalate the situation.

According to the Washington Post, the cut lines include Asia-Africa-Europe 1, the Europe India Gateway, Seacom and TGN-Gulf, while HGC Global Communications described the cuts as affecting 25% of the traffic flowing through the Red Sea. The Red Sea route is reportedly crucial for data moving from Asia to Europe, and HGC Global Communications reportedly began rerouting traffic.

Tim Stronge, a subsea cable expert with TeleGeography, told The Associated Press that “initial testing indicates the affected segment lies within Yemeni maritime jurisdictions in the Southern Red Sea,” adding that the company was rerouting the traffic that it was able to change, though some services were down.

The lines appeared to have been cut on February 24, but the Houthis are denying targeting the cables and blame the disruptions on British and US military operations. However, they did not offer evidence to support the allegation and have made false claims in the past.

Since November the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war, and despite a month and a half of US-led airstrikes, the rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition.

The Houthis claim they “will continue to prevent Israeli navigation or those heading to the ports of occupied Palestine until the aggression is stopped and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted.”

It is still unknown how the Houthis could sever subsea cables themselves, since they aren’t known to have the diving capabilities to target the cables, which sit hundreds of meters underwater. It is possible, however, that a drifting ship’s anchor scraping the sea floor has severed the subsea cables.