Helicopter and tank in action
Helicopter and tank in actionIsrael news photo

The Israeli Air Force bombed terrorist tunnels for the second straight day Thursday morning as the government continues to respond to every terrorist attack in what has become a mini-Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign without ground troops.

The early Thursday morning operation followed by several hours a late Wednesday night Kassam rocket attack near Sderot that frigthened traumatized residents but caused no injuries or damage. The tunnels were being used by terrorists for transporting arms and ammunition into southern Gaza.

Following the retaliation, military spokesmen said that the IDF will continue to answer every provocation and attack by Hamas, which has sharply escalated attacks on the western Negev the past month.

On Tuesday night, three tunnels were raided following mortar shell and rocket attacks that reached south of Ashkelon, which was seriously battered late last year by advanced rockets that eventually struck Be’er Sheva and north of Kiryat Gat, approaching the southern tip of metropolitan Tel Aviv. Two terrorists were killed in the raid on the tunnel, some of which are designed to help terrorists infiltrate in to the Negev and kidnap Israeli civilians and soliders..

Since the end of the three-week operation in mid-January, terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza gradually ceased the attacks for several weeks before resuming them two months ago. The latest rocket firings coincide with stepped-up negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted more than three years at a Gaza crossing.

The Cabinet agreed on Wednesday to release 20 female terrorists in return for a video of the soldier, whose physical and psychological condition is not known. The Hebrew-language Yediot Acharonot newspaper reported Thursday morning that Hamas promised to hand over to Shalit a book of Psalms that it received via intermediaries from former chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) gave it to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu two weeks ago, who in turn handed it over to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during his visit in Cairo last month amid more rumors that a deal to free Shalit was imminent. Mubarak told Egyptian officials to make sure the book reached Shalit, and it now is in Hamas’s hands.