Three Red Sea undersea data cables have been cut as Houthi attacks on this vital waterway continue

Dubai, United Arab Emirates –

Three undersea Red Sea cables that supply internet and telecommunications around the world have been cut because the waterway remains a target of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, officials said Monday. Meanwhile, a suspected Houthi attack set a ship on fire in the Gulf of Aden.

What cut the lines is still unclear. There has been concern that the cables are the target of the Houthi campaign, which rebels describe as an effort to pressure Israel to end its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, the Houthis have denied attacking the lines.

While global shipping has already been disrupted through the Red Sea, a crucial route for cargo and energy shipments from Asia and the Middle East to Europe, sabotage of telecommunications lines could further aggravate the crisis that already exists. It takes months.

The cutoff lines include Asia-Africa-Europe 1, Europe India Gateway, Seacom and TGN-Gulf, Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications said. He described the cuts as affecting 25 percent of the traffic flowing through the Red Sea. He described the Red Sea route as crucial for moving data from Asia to Europe and said it had begun to divert traffic.

HGC Global Communications described the Seacom-TGN-Gulf line as two separate cables when it is actually one in the area of ​​the cut, according to Tim Stronge, an expert on submarine cables at TeleGeography, a Washington-based telecommunications market research firm.

Responding to questions from The Associated Press, Seacom said that “initial evidence indicates that the affected segment is within Yemeni maritime jurisdictions in the southern Red Sea.” He said he was diverting traffic that was able to change, although some services were down.

Tata Communications, part of the Indian conglomerate and behind the Seacom-TGN-Gulf line, told the AP it “initiated immediate and appropriate corrective actions” after the line was cut.

“We have invested in various cable consortia to increase our diversity and hence in cable outage or problem situations, we can automatically reroute our services,” Tata said.

Other companies behind those lines, which provide data to Africa, Asia and the Middle East, did not immediately respond to AP questions on Monday.

In early February, Yemen’s internationally recognized government-in-exile alleged that the Houthis were planning to attack the cables. The lines appeared to have been cut on February 24, and the organization NetBlocks noticed internet access in the East African nation of Djibouti experiencing disruptions two days later. Seacom provides services in Djibouti. There have also been disruptions in Bahrain, an island kingdom in the Persian Gulf that the lines also reach.

But for their part, the Houthis have denied targeting the cables. The rebels blamed the disruptions on British and American military operations, but offered no evidence to support the charge and have made false claims in the past.

“Hostilities in Yemen by British and American naval military units caused a disruption to submarine cables in the Red Sea, jeopardizing the security of international communications and the normal flow of information,” the Ministry of Transport said. of Yemen, controlled by the Houthis. Sanaa, the rebel-controlled capital, supposedly.

Since November, rebels have repeatedly attacked ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters due to the war between Israel and Hamas. Those ships include at least one with cargo destined for Iran, the Houthi’s main benefactor, and an aid ship that later headed to Houthi-controlled territory.

Despite more than a month and a half of US-led airstrikes, the Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. They include last month’s attack on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days, and the downing of a US drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have angered the broader Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition.

Meanwhile, the British military’s UK Maritime Trade Operations center warned separately on Monday of a new attack in the Gulf of Aden. Private security company Ambrey described the attacked ship as a Liberian-flagged container ship affiliated with Israel that was damaged and issued a distress call.

“The container ship was reported to have suffered two explosions, the first of which occurred a ‘distance’ from its port, while the second damaged the vessel’s accommodation block and a container it carries,” Ambrey said. “The explosion also caused a fire on board and the crew’s extinguishing efforts were underway.”

Ambrey said no members of the ship’s crew were injured. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Middle East, did not immediately respond to questions about the attack.

The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, but it usually takes them several hours before acknowledging it.

It is still unclear how the Houthis could attack the undersea cables themselves. The rebels are not known to have the diving or salvage capabilities to attack the lines, which lie hundreds of meters (feet) below the surface of the canal.

However, undersea cables can be cut by anchors, including those dropped from some of the ships that have been disabled in the attacks. A drifting ship with its anchor rubbing against the sea could be the culprit.

“Our team believes it may have been affected by anchor trawling, due to the amount of shipping traffic the region faces and the low seabed in many parts of the Red Sea,” Seacom said. “This can only be confirmed once the repair ship is on site.”

There are currently 14 cables running through the Red Sea and another six are planned, said Stronge, the undersea cable expert.

“We estimate that more than 90 percent of communications between Europe and Asia pass through submarine cables in the Red Sea,” he said. “Fortunately, telecom operators have built a high degree of redundancy into the system – there are many cables running across the Red Sea.”

Leave a Comment