Uncertainty abounds concerning the fate of Israeli-Canadian Gill Rosenberg, who was reportedly captured by Islamic State.
Islamist websites – some of them known to be close to, or even serving as a front for, the terrorist organization – reported Sunday that the 31-year-old adventurer was captured during fierce battles with Kurdish fighters in unspecified areas.
According to the websites, Rosenberg was taken hostage following three suicide attacks on sites where Kurdish fighters had barricaded themselves.
The websites gave no further details regarding the circumstances of the capture, nor provided any proof of it.
The Islamic State claims do not make clear whether Rosenberg was captured in Iraq or in Syria. The main battlefield between the Kurds and Islamic State is in the Syrian- Turkish border town of Kobani.
Kurdish sources approached by Israel Radio reporter Eran Cicurel expressed doubt over the Islamic State report. They said Rosenberg was not in Kobani. In the assessment of these Kurdish sources, the reports of Rosenberg’s capture are probably the terrorists’ propaganda.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) told The Jerusalem Post that “there are no further details at this stage.”
Rosenberg wrote on her Facebook page on November 20 that she was handing over management of her account to “someone else” and would be without Internet access for at least two weeks, until December 8, she wrote. It is not clear where she went at this time.
If the websites’ reports are true, Rosenberg would be the first confirmed Western female to fall into Islamic State captivity. Holding Israeli citizenship would complicate her situation even further.
Unlike the US and the UK, which refused to negotiate over their respective captured nationals, thus giving the impression of a laissez-faire interest, Israel invests intense concern into the fate of its citizens captured by terrorists.
This does not mean Israel will negotiate for Rosenberg, if she has indeed been captured – or that Islamic State would agree to talk with Israel, making her nationality Canadian alone.
If Rosenberg is in captivity, she would be the second Israeli – of dual nationality – in this position. Steven Sotloff, a freelance American journalist who also held Israeli citizenship and filed for The Jerusalem Report on the Syrian civil war, was captured by Islamic State last year shortly after crossing the Syrian border and beheaded by the Islamist group this past August.
As well, Rosenberg breached Israeli law by flying to Iraq, an enemy country, which Israeli citizens are forbidden to enter.
No matter what has happened to her since joining the Kurdish forces, upon return to Israel she will be arrested and prosecuted, as was the case of several Israeli Arabs who joined Islamic State and subsequently returned to Israel.
This is not Rosenberg’s first tryst with adventurism – in 2009 she was arrested in an American con scandal and sentenced to four years in jail. This is, however, her first serious willful encounter with death.
Rosenberg was born in Vancouver, and experienced a family crisis after her parents divorced. In an interview with Ma’ariv
in 2009, she said that already at the age of 22 she was pursuing a promising career as a pilot of Boeing passenger planes, but decided to leave everything behind and immigrate in 2006. In Israel, she joined the IDF, serving as an instructor for Kenyan soldiers who came to Israel for home front search and rescue training.
Rosenberg said she had ambitions to join the Mossad, but was hurt during her military training and afterwards had money problems.
She met an American friend in an ulpan Hebrew language course who led her into crime, she said.
She joined a group of Israelis who were accused of setting up a ring to cheat elderly Americans and steal their money through a fake lottery scheme. According to the indictments filed against them, they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps even millions, from the unknowing pensioners.
After a number of complaints were filed, a joint Israel Police and FBI investigation was launched. The probe led to the arrest of several suspects and their extradition to the US, where they were tried. Rosenberg served four years in jail.
She may have decided to fulfill an act of redemption after getting out of jail and regaining her freedom.
Hopefully the Kurdish sources are right, and Rosenberg is indeed far from executioners.
Canada is trying to confirm reports that Rosenberg has been captured, a foreign ministry spokesman said Sunday.
“Canada is pursuing all appropriate channels” to seek further information and is in touch with local authorities, the spokesman said in a statement.Yossi Melman is an Israeli journalist and writer who specializes in security and intelligence affairs. He is co-author of "Spies Against Armageddon: inside Israel's Secret Wars.
Visit Yossi Melman's blog: www.israelspy.comReuters contributed to this report.