Israel Looking Into Reports That Canadian-Israeli Gill Rosenberg Was Captured by ISIS

Sites affiliated with ISIS report militant group managed to capture several Kurdish fighters, among them Gill Rosenberg, who joined Kurdish troops in northern Syria.

Barak Ravid
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Gill Rosenberg in IDF uniform, circa 2007
Gill Rosenberg in IDF uniform, circa 2007Credit: Gill Rosenberg's Facebook page
Barak Ravid

A Canadian-Israeli woman who has joined the ranks of the Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State in northern Syria has been taken captive by ISIS fighters, blogs and Islamist websites thought to be close to the militant group reported.

Israel is checking the reports, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon told Haaretz, adding that efforts are being made to obtain further information on the matter.

The Canadian government also said it was aware of the reports that a Canadian citizen has been kidnapped in Syria, and was seeking to verify them.

A blog considered to be one of the Islamic State's media arms reported that several female fighters who fought alongside the Kurds have been captured, among them Gill Rosenberg. According to the report, prior to their capture Islamic State fighters made three suicide bombing attacks against Kurdish outposts, killing some and capturing many others.

According to Israel Radio, Kurdish sources denied the reports, saying Rosenberg wasn't in the area when it was attacked.

Gill Rosenberg, 31, a resident of Tel Aviv, joined the Kurdish troops against Islamic State in northern Syria earlier this month. According to reports, Rosenberg said she had contacted Kurdish fighters over the Internet before traveling through Iraq to train at one of their camps on the Syrian border.

According to Walla, Rosenberg immigrated to Israel from Canada in 2006, leaving behind a career as a civilian pilot, and served for two years in the Israel Defense Forces. In 2009, she was extradited to the United States and jailed over an international phone scam, one of her former lawyers said.

Israel Radio aired an interview with Rosenberg earlier in November in which she said she had travelled to Iraq, was training with Kurdish guerrillas and would fight in neighbouring Syria.

"They are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really," she told Israel Radio, explaining her decision to enter the combat zone in northern Syria.

A source in the Kurdistan region said Rosenberg, known in Israel by her Hebraised first name Gila, was the first foreign woman to join Syrian Kurds in battle, in addition to several Western men who are fighting in their ranks.

"After me"

A Facebook page registered to Rosenberg showed photographs of her in settings marked as Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria.

"In the IDF (Israeli army), we say 'aharai', After Me. Let's show ISIS (Islamic State) what that means," read a Nov. 9 post.

Rosenberg had consented to extradition and served around three years in a U.S. prison under a plea bargain, her lawyer said. A 2009 FBI statement on the case names her as Gillian Rosenberg, among 11 people arrested in Israel "in a phony 'lottery prize' scheme that targeted victims, mostly elderly".

Israel's NRG news site reported at the time that Rosenberg turned to crime after running short on money, that she was estranged from her parents and had tried in vain to join the Mossad spy service.

"She is incredibly strong, both in mind and in body," said long-time friend Daniel Lieber in Massachusetts. "She has always been someone interested in politics and is very pro-Israel."

Discreet ties

Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, seeing in the minority ethnic group a buffer against shared Arab adversaries. The Kurds are spread through Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

Worried about spillover from the Syrian war, Israel has been cracking down on members of its 20-percent Arab minority who return after volunteering to fight with Islamic State or other rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule.

Israel bans its citizens from travelןng to enemy states, among them Syria and Iraq, and officials did not respond to a Reuters inquiry about whether the woman could face prosecution if she returns to Israel.

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