Israeli woman joins Kurds in battle against ISIS
Nov. 12, 2014 /Isabel Coles/Dan Williams/Reuters
IRBIL, Iraq/ OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A Canadian-born immigrant to Israel has become the first foreign woman to join Kurds battling ISIS in Syria, a Kurdish source said Tuesday, as details of the volunteer’s turbulent past surfaced. Gill Rosenberg, 31, is a civil aviation pilot who enlisted in an Israeli army search-and-rescue unit before being arrested in 2009, extradited to the United States and jailed over an international phone scam, one of her former lawyers said. Israel Radio Monday aired an interview with Rosenberg in which she said she had traveled to Iraq, was training with Kurdish guerrillas and would go into combat in next-door Syria. The station did not name the interviewee, who spoke North American-accented Hebrew, but the source involved in the report identified her as Rosenberg.
“They [the Kurds] are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really,” Rosenberg said, explaining why she joined up after contacting the guerrillas over the Internet.
A source in the Kurdistan region with knowledge of the issue said Rosenberg was the first foreign woman to join YPG, the Kurds’ dominant fighting force in northern Syria. She has crossed into Syria and is one of around 10 Westerners recruited by YPG, the source said.
Rosenberg could not be reached by Reuters for comment. A source provided an Iraqi Kurdistan cellphone number for her, but it was turned off Tuesday. 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 what that means,” read a Nov. 9 post by Rosenberg. Yahel Ben-Oved, an Israeli lawyer who represented Rosenberg in the U.S. criminal proceedings, said they had no knowledge of her joining the Kurds though they had spoken recently. “It is exactly the sort of thing she would do, though,” Ben-Oved said. Rosenberg had consented to extradition and served around three years in a U.S. prison under a plea bargain, Ben-Oved 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. Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, seeing in the minority group a buffer against shared Arab adversaries.
The Kurds are spread through Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. In the latter they have the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government. Israel bans its citizens from traveling to enemy states, among them Syria and Iraq. It has been cracking down on Israeli Arabs who return after volunteering to fight with ISIS or other rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule. Canada similarly worries about its citizens fighting in Syria. Israeli and Canadian officials said they were aware of Rosenberg’s case, but did not immediately elaborate on what, if any, efforts were being made to return her.