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Female Israeli fighter said abducted by Islamic State

Gill Rosenberg, 31, joined ranks with the Kurds earlier this month; Foreign Ministry casts doubt on report’s credibility

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Gill Rosenberg, in a photo which is presumed to have been taken in Iraq and which was uploaded to Facebook on November 9, 2014 (photo credit: Facebook)
Gill Rosenberg, in a photo which is presumed to have been taken in Iraq and which was uploaded to Facebook on November 9, 2014 (photo credit: Facebook)

An Israeli-Canadian woman who traveled to Syria to fight alongside the Kurds there earlier this month has been abducted by Islamic State fighters, Hebrew media reported Sunday, citing Syrian jihadist-linked media.

Gill Rosenberg, 31, was captured by jihadists near the flashpoint city of Kobani in the past few days, reports said. The former IDF soldier and Canada native was taken after the jihadists launched three suicide bombings in the area, and her condition is unknown.

The report, which was not initially confirmed by the Islamic State group, was published on the Samoach al-Islam blog, which largely operates as a mouthpiece for the terror group, as well as by Islamic State activists on Twitter. In Israel, the Foreign Ministry said it was looking into the report while stressing that the websites that carried the information were “of dubious credibility.”

Two Kurdish fighters quoted by Israel Radio cast doubt on the reports. One, an American fighter, said Rosenberg was never in Kobani. Another soldier on the ground said that he had heard nothing of her alleged abduction.

In her last Facebook post to date, Rosenberg wrote on November 20 that someone would be managing her profile for two weeks, and asked that people not message her “as this is not me.”

Gill Rosenberg in IDF uniform (screen capture: Channel 2)
Gill Rosenberg in IDF uniform (screen capture: Channel 2)

IS launched an attack Saturday on the Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey, a Kurdish official and activists said, although Turkey denied that the fighters had used its territory for the raid.

The assault began when a suicide bomber driving an armored vehicle detonated an explosive device on the border crossing between Kobani and Turkey, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party.

The Islamic State group “used to attack the town from three sides,” Khalil said. “Today, they are attacking from four sides.”

The Islamic State group claimed three suicide attacks in Kobani’s border crossing point, the SITE Intelligence Group reported. The group, quoting Twitter accounts linked to the militants, said the suicide attacks were carried out by a Saudi and a Turkmen, adding that one of them was driving a Humvee.

The first foreign woman to join the Kurdish forces, Rosenberg set out from her home in Tel Aviv on November 2, stopping in Amman before flying to Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Rosenberg told Israel Radio that she wanted to do her part for the Kurdish national struggle, and that she was hopeful her experience in the Israel Defense Forces would be useful to the Kurds.

In this undated photo, Israeli-American Gill Rosenberg, in Kurdish military fatigues, poses alongside a rifle. (screen capture: Channel 2)
In this undated photo, Israeli-American Gill Rosenberg, in Kurdish military fatigues, poses alongside a rifle. (screen capture: Channel 2)

According to Rosenberg’s Facebook page, she served in the IDF’s Home Front Command.

Rosenberg has posted pictures of herself in mountains of Iraq and Syrian Kurdistan.

“In the IDF, we say Aharai – After Me. Let’s show ISIS what that means,” she wrote, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.

In 2009, Rosenberg was arrested in a joint Israeli police and FBI operation on suspicion that she had been part of a ring that cheated elderly American citizens out of their money by posing as lottery officials and convincing the unsuspecting seniors to pay for fictive services, according to the Walla news site. The members of the ring, which included 11 other Israeli citizens aside from Rosenberg, were said to have stolen up to $25 million.

Rosenberg was later convicted of the crime and sentenced to four years in a US prison, though her term was eventually shortened and she was deported to Israel instead, Channel 10 reported.

The Islamic State group began its Kobani offensive in mid-September, capturing parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages. The town later became the focus of airstrikes by the US-led coalition against the militants.

Gill Rosenberg (screen capture: Channel 2)
Gill Rosenberg (screen capture: Channel 2)

Kurdish fighters slowly have been advancing in Kobani since late October, when dozens of well-armed Iraqi peshmerga fighters joined fellow Syrian Kurds in the battles. The fighting has killed hundreds of fighters on both sides over the past two months.

If confirmed, Rosenberg would be the second Israeli captive held by the jihadist group. Israeli-American journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by the Islamic State group in early September. Sotloff went missing in Syria in August 2013, and the jihadists were reportedly unaware of his Jewish heritage and Israeli citizenship until after his death.

Lazar Berman and AP contributed to this report.

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