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Israeli Warplanes Bomb Gaza Tunnels

A Palestinian smuggler uses a rope to climb out of a tunnel linking the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah with Egypt, 10 Dec 2009

A year after the Gaza War, the bombs are still falling. Israeli warplanes launched missiles at several open fields in the Gaza Strip late Friday, sparking a series of loud explosions.

Israeli warplanes bombed two tunnels along the Gaza border. The army said Palestinian militants planned to use the tunnels to infiltrate Israel and carry out an attack.

The airstrike occurred as Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, are negotiating a prisoner swap. Under the emerging deal, Israel would release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He was captured more than three years ago, when Hamas gunmen tunneled under the Gaza border and infiltrated an Israeli army base.

Israel is reluctant to release top militants responsible for deadly attacks, and Hamas has threatened to step up the pressure on the Jewish state with another kidnapping.

Hamas official Osama Hamdan said if Israel does not meet all of the group's demands, Hamas might need to capture an additional Israeli prisoner in order to complete the deal.

Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan says Israel's willingness to make such a lopsided prisoner swap is inviting the another Hamas kidnapping.

"I think that if we look at it in perspective, we will find that this is the greatest, significant win, the greatest significant victory for terrorism that Israel has made possible since its establishment," said Schueftan.

Israel destroyed hundreds of Palestinian smuggling tunnels during the Gaza War a year ago, but a report by the Shin Bet security service said much of the tunnel infrastructure has been rebuilt. The report said Hamas is smuggling in weapons and rocket building materials from Egypt in preparation for the next round of conflict.