Intercontinental internet cables in Red Sea have been cut

by ian

Internet cables running through the Red Sea have reportedly been “cut” in recent days, possibly bringing a whole new threat to the region.

A report from Hong Kong-based telecommunications company HGC Global Communications says that some submarine cables providing intercontinental internet traffic have been damaged. That report, initially issued on Feb. 29, said that this would have “a significant impact on communication networks in the Middle East” in particular.

The problem continued to mount as more was revealed about the disruption. HGC released a supplementary report on Monday which highlighted the extent of the damage.  According to this report, “Among 15+ submarine cables in the Red Sea, 4 of them … are cut which we estimated [impacted] 25% of traffic.”

HGC listed the other cables that were affected besides their own. One of them belonged to South African-based Seacom, which told CNN that repairs to that cable wouldn’t start for at least a month. Until then, they would do their best to reroute any client traffic.

Another affected cable includes the Asia-Africa-Europe 1, which connects countries as far apart as France and Vietnam. The final cable identified was the Europe India Gateway, which links the United Kingdom to India, and many nations in between.

While this cable-based attack is new, attacks within the Red Sea have been consistent since the October 7th attack on Israel. These attacks are believed to have been perpetrated by Houthis based in Yemen.

They have targeted both civilian and government-owned ships with drones and missiles, saying it is a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian people as Israel moves to eliminate the terrorist threat posed by Hamas.

Yemen had signaled in early February that the Houthis were planning to attack these cables. Naturally, the Houthis were blamed when the cables were reported to have been cut. But the Houthis have denied responsibility.

A Houthi leader named Abdel Malek al-Houthi reportedly said the group has “no intention of targeting sea cables providing internet to countries in the region.”

The Houthis blamed the UK and US militaries for their operations in the area. A statement from the group said that this was a “glitch” caused by the Western militaries and “endangered the security and safety of the international communications and the flow of information.”

The Houthis have previously denied attacks that were later proven to have been theirs, so there is a chance that this is just deflection. However, the Associated Press points out that the Houthis are not known to have the technological capabilities to pull off such underwater operations.

Seacom said that one “plausible” explanation for this could be a drifting ship with its anchor scraping the sea floor. Seacom said this could be confirmed “once the repair ship is on site” – meaning there’s a chance no one will know how this happened for at least another couple of weeks.