Noam Shalit, the father of the soldier held by Hamas, testified Monday before the Goldstone Committee, which is investigating illegal conduct by combatants during Operation Cast Lead on behalf of the United Nations.

Shalit asked that the committee include in its final report that the Hamas operation that led to the abduction of his son, Gilad Shalit, was a war crime according to the definitions of the Geneva Convention, and that he must be released immediately. He told the UN Committee that the abduction of his son preceded all the other events in the Gaza Strip - the IDF siege on the territory, the launching of rockets by Palestinian groups, and finally the Israeli offensive - and argued that that action had resulted in the subsequent actions.

"The committee is meant to relate to human rights, and he [Gilad] has lived without human rights for three years. No one knows what happened to him, and not even the Red Cross has paid him a visit," Shalit told the committee.

Shalit also expressed his view that Hamas should be held responsible for the abduction and all its implications. In an unusual move he also noted the specific responsibility of Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal, and asked that "the committee determine that Hamas and Khaled Meshal are responsible for the war crime of taking hostages."

Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin also testified before the committee, as did Ophir Shinar of the Sapir College in Sderot, Dr. Mirlo Sidrer, who was injured during a rocket attack on a medical facility at the Ashkelon mall, and a resident of Sderot, Noam Bedein, who heads a public relations group on behalf of the city.

Bedein showed the committee short films on the lives of the people of Sderot during the eight years under the threat of Qassam rockets. "We showed them films that highlight the reality for the residents of Sderot during the years under Qassams," Bedein said. "We documented the residents running for cover and the horror of their lives in recent years. We presented statistics and findings of research, so that they could understand what the residents of the Negev went through."