Internet service in Yemen has been taken completely offline after an airstrike by military forces led by Saudi Arabia on a telecommunications building early Friday, according to the web monitoring group NetBlocks.
The airstrike targeted a building in the city of Al Hudaydah that housed communications infrastructure for TeleYemen, the country’s only internet provider. The extent of the damage from the airstrike is still unknown, but there are unverified reports of deaths circulating on social media, according to the Associated Press.
Saudi officials acknowledged an airstrike against what it called a “hub for piracy and organized crime” overnight, according to the AFP, but did not officially take credit for hitting a telecommunications building.
TeleYemen is controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been fighting for control of the country since 2014. As NetBlocks notes, the port city of Al Hudaydah, also known as Hodeida, is where the undersea FALCON cable makes landfall and brings telecommunications capabilities to Yemen in the populous western part of the country.
The FALCON cable was accidentally cut in 2020, leading to the last nationwide internet outage. Land-based cables that previously provided internet through Saudi Arabia were severed at the start of the civil war.
The civil war in Yemen, which saw the neighboring Saudis get involved in 2015, has killed at least 377,000 people according to estimates by the United Nations and led to a horrific humanitarian crisis. Over 5 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine, according to the UN’s World Food Program, and tens of thousands of children have already died of starvation since the war began.
A separate airstrike targeting a Yemeni prison also saw casualties on Friday, according to the AFP. The extent of the damage from that airstrike remains unknown, though the AFP notes “grisly” videos circulating online.