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Israeli woman fighting Islamic State with Kurds is a convicted grifter

Before joining war against jihadist extremists, Canada-born Gill Rosenberg served 3 years in prison for cheating elderly out of their money

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Gill Rosenberg, a 31-year-old Canadian-born resident of Tel Aviv, has joined Kurdish fighters in their battle against the Islamic State (photo credit: Facebook)
Gill Rosenberg, a 31-year-old Canadian-born resident of Tel Aviv, has joined Kurdish fighters in their battle against the Islamic State (photo credit: Facebook)

An Israeli citizen who has joined up with Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in northern Syria was convicted for involvement in a fraud ring that cheated elderly American citizens out of their money.

Gill Rosenberg, a 31-year-old born in Canada, was arrested in 2009 following a joint FBI and Israel Police operation and consequently spent three years in a US prison for posing as a lottery official and convincing unsuspecting seniors to pay for fictive services, according to the Walla news site. Channel 10 news reported that Rosenberg had originally been sentenced to a four-year prison term, but her sentence was eventually shortened and she was deported to Israel.

Rosenberg and the 11 other members of the ring — all Israeli nationals — were believed to have stolen up to $25 million, according to Channel 10.

On Sunday, Rosenberg posted to her Facebook page that she was in Nusaybin, Turkey, and was beginning her training alongside Kurdish fighters in the mountains on the border with Syria the same day. Israel Radio reported Tuesday that Rosenberg made contact with the YPG group, the People’s Protection Units in Syrian Kurdistan, via the Internet.

Gill Rosenberg (right) posing with a friend 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 (right) posing with a friend 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)

Yahel Ben-Oved, a lawyer who represented Rosenberg in her 2009 trial, told Reuters that while she could not confirm whether her former client had in fact set off to fight Islamist extremists in Syria, such a move was “exactly the sort of thing [Rosenberg] would do.”

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. She 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.

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.

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)

Kurdish fighters have dealt the Islamic State a series of military setbacks in Iraq and forced a prolonged stalemate in the small Syrian border town of Kobani.

The prolonged fighting in Kobani is also distracting IS from more strategically important areas in Syria and Iraq where the militant extremists are already stretched on multiple fronts.

Nearly two months after IS launched its lightning assault on the Kurdish-dominated town near Turkish border, the group is bogged down in an increasingly entrenched and costly battle.

Syrian and Kurdish activists estimate nearly 600 Islamic State fighters have been killed — its heaviest losses since taking over large parts of Syria and Iraq in a summer blitz.

But despite seven weeks of fierce fighting and the reinforcements on both sides, fighting positions around Kobani remain much the same as they did several weeks ago, with IS controlling about 40 percent of the town, according to Syrian and Kurdish activists and observers.

IS has also recently suffered losses on several fronts in Iraq, where it is fighting government forces, peshmerga and Shiite militias aided by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

A group of 150 Iraqi Kurdish forces known as peshmerga deployed last week to Kobani with more advanced weapons including anti-tank missiles and artillery to help bolster their Syrian brethren defending the town. They have provided artillery cover for fellow Kurdish fighters, but it is too early to say whether this has already made any difference on the ground.

Lazar Berman and AP contributed to this report. 

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