Captive soldier's father meets with senior UN official in Jerusalem, notes Goldstone report.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Noam Schalit on Monday called on the United Nations to pressure Hamas to honor the Goldstone Report’s demand for the release of his son St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who has been held captive in Gaza since June 2006.He made the request during a meeting in Jerusalem with UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Sir John Holmes, who is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories for four days.He reminded Holmes that the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of possible war crimes in Gaza, also called both for his son’s release and for Hamas to allow the International Red Cross to visit him.No one has been allowed to visit Gilad since his capture while on patrol along the Gaza border.According to a press statement put out by the Campaign to Free Gilad Schalit, Noam Schalit asked Holmes to pressure Hamas on this issue in spite of what he called Hamas’s “cynical and unacceptable” response to report’s call for his son’s release.The two also spoke of the difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza as a result of its diplomatic and economic isolation.Schalit blamed the situation on Hamas’s refusal to accept the deal put forward by former German mediator Gerhard Conrad, adding that he did not believe it would be improved until his son was released.AdvertisementEarlier in the day, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beitenu) spoke with Holmes about ways to ease the humanitarian plight of the people in Gaza, without at the same time financially benefiting Hamas.Since the group’s violent takeover of Gaza in 2007 the Israeli crossings into the area have been closed to all but humanitarian goods. The UN is looking to pilot a new program to increase the flow of goods into the area.“We welcome the visit of the UN Under-Secretary-General to Israel. It is in our interests to continue and intensify our cooperation with the United Nations on a humanitarian basis. We are looking to help the innocent people of Gaza while intensifying the political isolation of Hamas. This policy is showing positive results, which are borne out by Hamas’s continued loss of popularity in the Gaza Strip,” said Ayalon.Ayalon and Holmes also spoke of the crisis in Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake there. Ayalon stated that Israel was proud of its participation in humanitarian efforts, as was the case in Haiti. “Israel was among the first countries to establish a sophisticated field hospital to treat civilians,” he said.Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar on Monday said negotiations with Israel on aprisoner exchange deal to secure the release of Schalit were at acomplete standstill, and that the German mediator had not visited Gazaor Tel Aviv recently, Army Radio reported.In an interview with Arab-language Shams radio station, whichbroadcasts in Israel, Zahar said that during Israeli cabinet meetingsheld in late December, the ministers backtracked on understandings thathad been reached earlier by Hagai Hadas, the head of the Israelinegotiating team.“When Israel relayed [to] Hamas a proposal, it knew that [the offer]would be rejected. This is not a mediator that would accept such athing, and no one is prepared to have such an experience again,” ArmyRadio quoted Zahar as telling Shams.Zahar recently announced that he had quit the Hamas negotiating team.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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