Israeli-Canadian Who Battled ISIS Returns to Israel

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

Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman who joined Kurdish militants fighting the Islamic State, reportedly returned to Israel late Sunday, after leaving Iraq more than a week ago.

In an interview with Israeli news site Ynet, the 31-year-old explained why she left the battlefield and why she has no plans to return to there.

Reports of Rosenberg leaving Israel to join Kurdish forces first surfaced in November 2014.

The Shin Bet – Israel's internal security service, which reportedly questioned her upon her return – claims she was in Syria from November until the beginning of 2015, when she travelled to Iraq to fight alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. She reportedly left Iraq a week and a half ago, flying first to Paris and finally to Israel.

According to YNet, the complex political and military dynamics, accented by Iran's increased presence in the field, prompted her to leave. "Iran's role and ISIS's advance led me to understand that the time had come to return to Israel," she said.

Rosenberg, who immigrated to Israel in 2006, cites her Jewish identity as part of the reason she decided to travel to the war-torn region and take action against ISIS's atrocities. "As Jews, we say 'never again' and there is no difference between Jews and any other human being. [The situation in  Syria and Iraq] touched my heart and I want to do something to help." She said she knew the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have female fighters and decided that's where she would go.

In the interview, she censures those who blame Israel and the United States for aiding ISIS. "These two governments do not train Daesh (the Arab acronym for ISIS), but still, there are many people who think they do. It's not true and it's frustrating to hear such allegations."

"I wasn't sure I would ever come back to Israel," Rosenberg told Ynet, adding, "I had a hard time leaving the friends I fought alongside." She says that "the thought of sitting at the beach while my friends were being slaughtered" plagued her throughout her time there.

Her time away was no picnic. "Everything was good. But still, it's a country at war so it's difficult. Besides the frontlines, they have three million refugees that are displaced... mostly women and children... the humanitarian situation there is in a huge crisis," she told the Israeli site.

What about the future? Rosenberg says she plans to focus on political advocacy and wants to increase awareness to the dire situation of the Kurds and refugees in the area. "I plan to spend my time in political activism, raising awareness instead of being on the frontline. I want to work for the rights of Kurds in Iraq and other minorities."

In December 2014, a local report said Rosenberg had been captured by ISIS, but she quelled the rumors, posting on Facebook that she was "safe and secure."

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

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