Yemen lost its connection to the internet nationwide early Friday after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted a site in the contested city of Hodeida, an advocacy group said, plunging the war-torn nation offline. NetBlocks said the disruption began around 1 am local and affected TeleYemen, the state-owned monopoly that controls internet access in the country. TeleYemen is now run by the Houthi rebels who have held Yemen's capital, Sanaa, since late 2014.
Yemen was "in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout following airstrike on (a) telecom building", NetBlocks said, without immediately elaborating. The San Diego-based Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis also noted a nationwide outage affecting Yemen beginning around the same time.
The Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels who hold Yemen's capital, Sanaa, acknowledged carrying out "accurate airstrikes to destroy the capabilities of the militia" around Hodeida's port. It did not immediately acknowledge striking a telecommunication target as NetBlocks described, but instead called Hodeida a hub for piracy and Iranian arms smuggling to back the Houthis.
The undersea FALCON cable carries internet into Yemen through the Hodeida port along the Red Sea for TeleYemen. The FALCON cable has another landing in Yemen's far eastern port of Ghaydah as well, but the majority of the country's population lives in its west along the Red Sea.
A cut to the FALCON cable in 2020 caused by a ship's anchor also caused widespread internet outages in Yemen. Land cables to Saudi Arabia have been cut since the start of Yemen's civil war, while connections to two other undersea cables have yet to be made amid the conflict, TeleYemen previously said.
A Saudi-led coalition entered Yemen's war in 2015 to back its ousted government. The war has turned into the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with international criticism of Saudi airstrikes killing civilians and targeting the country's infrastructure. The Houthis meanwhile have used child soldiers and indiscriminately laid landmines across the country.
The war reached into the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, on Monday when the Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, killing three and wounding six.