Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-born former member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), has been identified as having joined Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.
The 31-year-old, who according to her Facebook page was born in White Rock, B.C. and studied aviation at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, told an Israeli radio station on Monday she reached out to Kurdish forces online before going to Iraq to train.
Posts on Rosenberg’s Facebook timeline indicate she arrived in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, on Nov. 2 and then travelled through Turkey and into northern Syria sometime before Nov. 9.
Israel’s Haaretz reported Rosenberg gave an interview to Israel Radio, explaining why she wanted to join the Kurdish fight against ISIS.
“They are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really,” she reportedly said.
Global News reached out to Rosenberg via Facebook and email, but did not receive a response.
The Canadian government is “aware of reports that a Canadian individual has joined Kurdish forces.”
Canadian law prohibits citizens from leaving the country to join designated terrorist groups such as ISIS, and so far one person — 25-year-old Hasibullah Yusufzai of Burnaby, B.C.— has been charged with travelling overseas for terrorism-related purposes.
The Kurdish groups fighting ISIS are not considered terrorist entities and foreign governments, including Canada, have offered weapons and logistical support to the Kurdish groups in Iraq and/or Syria.
The Kurdish forces engaged in battle with ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, in Syria are known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, while Kurdish Peshmerga are fighting the jihadist group in parts of Iraq.
While not considered a terrorist entity, the YPG is affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization by Canada and the U.S.
Rosenberg indicated she was a member of the IDF from 2006 to 2008 and posted several photos of herself in uniform.
What’s not on her Facebook timeline are details of an apparent incarceration for fraud.
Hebrew-language Walla News reported Rosenberg was arrested and later convicted for her involvement in a lottery fraud ring that targeted elderly Americans.
According to a post from the FBI, which worked with Israeli police to arrest 11 people in 2009 and later extradite them to the United States, a woman named Gillian Rosenberg pleaded guilty to her involvement in the scam in which “victims were ultimately bilked out of millions of dollars.”
Israel’s Channel 10 reported (in Hebrew) she was sentenced to a four-year prison term, but later had her sentence reduced before being deported to Israel.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons lists a Gillian Chealsea (sic) Rosenberg as having been released from prison on Nov. 27, 2013 at the age of 30.
A post from a friend on Rosenberg’s Facebook timeline in August referred to her as Gillian Chelsea Clarissa Rosenberg.
Rosenberg indicated on her Facebook account that her birth date is Nov. 12, 1983.
There was little to no activity on the account between 2009 and Dec. 30 2013. Prior to going back to Israel in July of this year, she posted several photos from New York City and wrote that she was returning to Israel after five years.
Yahel Ben-Oved, the Israeli lawyer who represented Gillian Rosenberg in the fraud case, told Reuters she spoke with her former client recently.
Global News reached out to a New York City-based criminal defence attorney who appears to have represented Gillian Rosenberg, to confirm if his former client was the Canadian-born Gillian Rosenberg. The lawyer did not respond to the request.
The Jerusalem Post reported in 2009 it was Gillian Rosenberg who helped blow the scheme’s cover, by contacting an undercover police officer and telling the agent she had won $500,000, but had to transfer $4,200 “in fees to Israel.”
Reuters reported Ben-Oved said she didn’t know that Rosenberg had left Israel to join the Kurdish militia fighting ISIS.
“It is exactly the sort of thing she would do, though,” said Ben-Oved, who told the news agency her former client wound up serving about three years in prison.
With files from The Associated Press