Houthi Attacks Sever Three Red Sea Data Cables, Disrupting Vital Waterway

Reports indicate that three underwater cables in the Red Sea, vital for global internet and telecommunications, have been severed, with Yemen’s Houthi rebels suspected as the perpetrators, officials disclosed on Monday. In a separate incident, a ship in the Gulf of Aden caught fire following a missile strike by Houthi forces, fortunately resulting in no casualties.

The exact cause of the cable damage remains unclear. There have been apprehensions regarding the cables being targeted amidst the ongoing conflict involving the Houthis, who claim their actions are aimed at pressuring Israel to cease its military operations in the Gaza Strip. Despite their denial of involvement, suspicions linger regarding their role in the disruptions.

The interruption of telecommunications poses a significant escalation in the already prolonged crisis, affecting critical shipping routes through the Red Sea, essential for cargo and energy transportation between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

The damaged cables include the Asia-Africa-Europe 1, the Europe India Gateway, Seacom, and TGN-Gulf, as reported by Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications. They estimate that the disruptions impact around 25% of the Red Sea’s data traffic, prompting the rerouting of communications to mitigate the effects.

However, there’s been a discrepancy in describing the Seacom-TGN-Gulf line, which, according to Tim Stronge, an expert in subsea cables with TeleGeography, is a single cable at the location of the cut, not two separate ones.

In response to inquiries from The Associated Press, Seacom stated that initial investigations indicate the affected segment lies within Yemeni maritime jurisdiction in the Southern Red Sea. Efforts are underway to reroute traffic, although some services remain offline.

Tata Communications, the company involved with the Seacom-TGN-Gulf line, affirmed taking immediate remedial actions and highlighted their investments in diverse cable consortiums to ensure service continuity in such situations.

Despite allegations from Yemen’s internationally recognized government accusing the Houthis of planning to attack the cables in early February, the rebels deny targeting them. Nonetheless, the disruption in internet access observed in Djibouti shortly after the cable damage raises suspicions.

Since November, the Houthis have been engaging in repeated attacks on ships in the Red Sea, with their actions tied to the Israel-Hamas conflict. These assaults have targeted vessels carrying cargo to Iran, the Houthis’ main supporter, as well as humanitarian aid destined for Houthi-controlled areas.

As tensions persist, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center warned of another potential attack in the Gulf of Aden. A Liberia-flagged container ship, reportedly linked to Israel, was damaged in the incident, prompting distress calls but causing no injuries.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, a spokesperson for the Houthi military, claimed responsibility for the attack on the MSC Sky II, accusing Israel of aggression against Palestine. However, the vessel continued its journey without assistance, according to the U.S. military’s Central Command.

Despite uncertainties surrounding how the Houthis could execute attacks on subsea cables, possibilities include accidental damage from drifting ships or deliberate sabotage using anchors.

The disruption underscores the importance of maintaining and securing critical infrastructure in conflict zones, particularly in regions crucial for global connectivity and commerce.

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