Yemen: 96 Hours of Internet Blackout
By: Khaled A. BaRahma
Photo Credit: Mohammad Hadi
An airstrike on a telecommunications hub in the port city of Al Hodeida on Friday caused a total internet blackout in Yemen at about 1 am local time. Several people posted pictures of bomb damage to a telecommunication building online. A Saudi-led coalition attacked Houthi rebels in Yemen with airstrikes from Al Hodeida, the Associated Press confirmed later.
TeleYemen, the state-owned company that controls the country's internet access, is now under control of the Houthis rebels. According to Yemeni media controlled by Houthi rebels, an unknown number of people were killed in the attack on the telecommunications hub. Initial reports of a strike were corroborated by visual reports.
According to NetBlocks, Al Hodeida is Yemen's main landing point for internet connections, which are connected via the undersea cables FALCON and SEA-ME-WE 5. Most of TeleYemen's western population is connected to the internet via the FALCON cable. Internet advocacy group SMEX said the outage was caused by airstrikes conducted against Houthi-held cities like Al Hodeida.
There are now very few companies and banks that have access to the Internet, and those that are subscribed to the 'Aden Net' network, whose subscribers are few, Following the attack, all government servers were disrupted as SMEX explained.
According to the associated press, the coalition made "accurate airstrikes to destroy the militia's capability in Al Hodeida," but did not confirm targeting the telecommunications facility specifically. It was reported in The Washington Post those citizens during the deadly bombing campaign were terrified because their families and friends could not be reached.
YemenNet (AS30873), a leading network, lost connectivity early on Friday morning, as shown by real-time metrics. Although visual investigations suggest this may have been the case, it is unclear if telecommunication infrastructure was specifically targeted. Due to the blackout, coverage on the ground will likely be limited.
Initial reports of a strike were corroborated by visual reports. There are two undersea cables that route through the Red Sea to Yemen, the FALCON and SEA-ME-WE 5 cables, that originate from Al Hudaydah. Saada was affected by the nationwide outage. Web monitor NetBlocks said connectivity had been disrupted after a series of airstrikes. The outage also prevented citizens from transferring money or working with foreign companies.
During the Biden administration, President Biden ended the same arms sales as the Trump administration and declared that the US would "end all support" for a war that created "a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe." Nevertheless, later, he approved an over $450 million contract for maintaining attack helicopters used in the war. Although the Saudi’s administration has been costing tens of billions in war, some observers were hoping the Covid-19 pandemic would allow them to end the war in a more dignified manner. As a result of the recent airstrikes, violence has escalated dramatically on all sides in recent weeks. A ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels into the UAE last week have killed at least three.
There have been over 100,000 people killed and over four million people displaced in the seven-year conflict, with millions of people on famine. In addition to Hodeidah, which is home to submarine cable landing stations, the Houthi group still controls a large portion of the north of Yemen.