Houthis deny sabotaging Red Sea internet cables days after sinking UK cargo ship

An aerial view of the Rubymar sinking in the Red Sea.
An aerial view of the Rubymar sinking in the Red Sea. Credit: X/@CENTCOM

Houthis have denied responsibility for sabotaging internet and telecommunications in the Red Sea, days after the group successfully sunk a British-registered cargo ship.

Officials said, without providing an explanation, on Tuesday that three cables in the vital waterway had been cut.

The development comes after the Rubymar on Saturday became the first merchant ship to be sunk in the Red Sea following a Houthi attack.

For months now Houthis have disrupted global shipping in the Red Sea - a key route for cargo and energy shipments from Asia and the Middle East to Europe - as part of what the group says is its response to Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

To this point, the group has only targeted merchant vessels, and any effort to sabotage communication lines could represent a further escalation in the crisis.

The damaged lines include Asia-Africa-Europe 1, the Europe India Gateway, Seacom and TGN-Gulf, Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications said.

Some 25% of traffic flowing through the Red Sea has been affected by the cuts, according to the firm, adding it had begun re-routing traffic where possible.

Last month, the Houthis were accused by Yemen's internationally recognised government in exile of planning to disrupt telecommunications in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have denied the allegations and previously blamed any disruption on British and US military operations.

Western forces have been deployed in the waterway to protect merchant ships and have launched several attacks against Houthi forces in response to their incursions.

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However, the Houthis - which are backed by Iran - have remained steadfast in their attacks, successfully sinking a ship for the first time on Saturday.

The Rubymar - a British-registered vessel which was transporting an estimated 21,000 tonnes of fertiliser - had been mortally struck days beforehand and left to drift in the Red Sea taking on water.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the sunk vessel now "presents an environmental risk" and a "subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway".

Senior Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al Houthi, in the wake of the sinking, accused UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the British government of being responsible.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, he name-checked the newly elected MP for Rochdale, George Galloway, who has been highly critical of both Mr Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's approach to the Israel-Hamas war.

The Rubymar was carrying around 21,000 tonnes of fertiliser. Credit: AP

He said: "You have a chance to salvage the M/V Rubymar. By sending a letter of guarantee, signed by George Galloway, that the relief trucks agreed upon at that time would enter Gaza."

Mr Galloway, leader of the Workers Party of Britain, has been a constant opponent of British and US foreign policies in the Middle East throughout his career, and has made repeated calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, he won the Rochdale by-election with just under 40% of the vote, using his victory speech to heap criticism on Sir Keir and the Labour Party, which had previously held the seat.

He said: "Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. You have paid, and you will pay, a high price for the role that you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip."

The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have so far killed more than 30,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health ministry.

Israel's military operation was itself triggered by an unprecedented attack into southern Israel by proscribed terror group Hamas, which killed 1,200 people and led to around 250 others being taken hostage.

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