Houthis Deny Israeli Media Reports They Sabotaged Internet Cables Under Red Sea

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Feb 27, 2024 - 07:40 PM

Update(1440ET)The Houthi military spokesman has explicitly denied any intention to knock out undersea regional internet cables in a fresh Tuesday statement, however, he reiterated that the Iran-linked group's top goal is to block commercial shipping and supplies to Israel. 

The full statement is as follows, cited in Al Mayadeen news: "We are keen to spare all cables and their services from any risks and to provide the necessary facilities for their maintenance. The decision to prevent the passage of Israeli ships does not include ships belonging to international companies licensed to carry out marine cable work."

Over the past two days there were widespread reports that up to four undersea telecoms cables in the Red Sea area between the Saudi city of Jeddah and the state of Djibouti were damaged. As we reported below, the operator Seacom reported connectivity problems, following reports which originated in Israeli media sources. Sky News Arabia had also picked up on the reports Monday.

For months there has been speculation that Red Sea waters, which has been scene of daily Houthi attacks on international shipping as well as Western coalition warships, could be subject to sabotage of global fiber optics lines. However, such a sabotage campaign would be difficult to carry out, given it would likely require submarine or deep water equipment and capabilities, which the Houthis likely lack.

Israeli media such as the Jerusalem Post - which was among the first to report the alleged sabotage of several cables - could also be anticipating such an Iran-backed covert campaign. The reports quickly spread to US media, including in the New York Post.

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There are new reports saying Yemen's Houthis have knocked out several underwater telecommunications cables linking Europe and Asia, however, some of the accounts of the extent of damage remain conflicting.

Multiple Israeli publications are reporting Monday that four underwater communications cables between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti have been damaged in recent months - the result of Houthi sabotage. The reporting appears to have originated in Israel's financial daily outlet Globes.

But one industry publication cautions, "One cable operator has confirmed damage to a cable in the region, but said it didn’t know the cause yet." Reportedly only the Seacom operator has issued confirmation that it has had cable issues at Djibouti.

According to the Israeli media report:

Three months after the Houthis began attacking merchant ships, the Yemenite rebels have carried out another one of their threats. "Globes" has learned that four submarine communication cables have been damaged in the Red Sea between Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Djibouti in East Africa.

According to the reports, these are cables from the companies AAE-1, Seacom, EIG and TGN. This is causing serious disruption of Internet communications between Europe and Asia, with the main damage being felt in the Gulf countries and India.

Other impacted cables are operated by the companies Tata, Ooredoo, Bharti Airtel, and Telecom Egypt, but these did not issue immediate comment or confirmation as to the reported damage or outages.

But the Seacom outage is now being confirmed by NetBlocks...

Israel's Globes says repairs could take up to eight weeks, but the waters in the region remain high risk due to what are now daily Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping. The Houthis have lately made veiled threats they could take out the underwater fiber optic cables.

"The repair of such a large number of underwater cables may take at least eight weeks according to estimates and involve exposure to risk from the Houthi terror organization," the report says. "The telecommunications companies will be forced to look for companies that will agree to carry out the repair work and probably pay them a high risk premium."

Analyst Alberto Rizzi has explained that "at low depths, trained divers/ship anchors are enough to damage them" and that "Bab-el-Mandeb/Aden is a chokepoint where damage can impact multiple cables at once."