Noam Shalit Urges UN to Implement Goldstone Report

Shalit to UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs: Goldstone calls for Gilad's release.

The father of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit demanded on Monday that the UN exert all possible efforts to implement the findings of the Goldstone report which call for the freeing of his son.

Noam Shalit met with met the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, who is on an official Middle East visit, in Jerusalem.

The Goldstone report charged both Israel and Hamas with war crimes following Israel's Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, which was launched as an offensive measure to stop the heavy rocket fire from Gaza on its southern communities.

It also calls for the immediate release of Shalit, who was taken captive in June of 2006, when Palestinian gunmen tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border and raided an IDF position close to the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Shalit reminded Holmes that the Goldstone report calls for the immediate release of Shalit and to allow the International Red Cross to visit him in captivity and report information back to the family.

The difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza was also mention by Shalit, who said that the choking off of Gaza was direct result of Hamas refusing to agree to a prisoner exchange brought forth by the German mediator, Gerhard Conrad.

He said that the situation in Gaza would not improve until Gilad was released.

On Saturday, the Shalit family spokesman Shimson Liebman said that he as well as other activists working toward Shalit's release were tensely waiting to see how the exit of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar will influence prospects for a prisoner exchange deal.

Liebman's statement came in reaction to the news that Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar has confirmed quitting his role in negotiations to free Shalit.

In an interview Der Spiegel magazine published on Saturday, the Gaza strongman told the German magazine that Israel and Hamas had come close to striking a deal over Shalit and had drafted an agreement for a prisoner swap, which by Christmas Eve 2009 was ready for signature.

Zahar traveled to Damascus to present the document to Hamas leaders there, persuading the organization's political chief Khaled Meshal to approve the draft. But Israel backtracked and scuppered the deal at the last minute, Zahar said.

"I'm not ready to continue playing children's games with the Israelis," he told Der Spiegel, adding that he planned to play no further part in the talks.

Zahar is thought to be among the Hamas leaders more favorable to a compromise over Shalit and his departure could now spell a blow to prospects for a deal.