Israeli witnesses testify before U.N. panel


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Witnesses from Israel testified before a U.N. commission investigating human rights violations during the Gaza military operation.

The Israeli witnesses, including the father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held in Gaza, testified Monday in Geneva since they were unable to testify before the commission last month in Gaza.

South African Judge Richard Goldstone, a war crimes prosecutor in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda probes, is heading the commission. Israel did not allow the commission to enter the country to carry out its investigation, saying it would be biased.

Noam Shalit had already submitted a written statement asking the committee to call for his son’s release.

A resident of Ashkelon who was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza testified before the committee Monday, as did Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, lecturers from the Sapir College and several representatives of the Sderot Information Center, Ynet reported.

"What was my crime — that I’m a Jew living in Ashkelon?" Dr. Mirella Sidrer of Ashkelon told the committee, according to Ynet. "I studied medicine in order to help people from all over the world. I helped women in Gaza.

"I am a common civilian who has never had a hand in any kind of act of war. I also regret the casualties and the innocent victims on the other side. Enough with the blood and the suffering; it has to stop."

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