Jerusalem: A Canadian-Israeli who was the first foreign woman to help the Kurds in their fight against Islamic State has left the front lines and returned to Israel, saying she was worried about Iranian involvement in the war zone.
After eight months in which she was often incommunicado, stirring rumours that she had fallen captive, Israeli media feted Gill Rosenberg`s sudden return on Sunday. But she may still face a legal reckoning for her unauthorised travels.
The 31-year-old former Israeli army volunteer said the lessons of the Holocaust drove her to help protect the Kurds and other Middle East minorities menaced by Islamic State.
"I think we as Jews, we say `never again` for the Shoah, and I take it to mean not just for Jewish people, but for anyone, for any human being, especially a helpless woman or child in Syria or Iraq," Rosenberg told Israel`s Army Radio on Monday.
She said that during her time with Kurdish YPG guerrillas in Syria and later with the Dwekh Nawsha, a Christian militia in Iraq, she took part in "some pretty major firefights" with Islamic State insurgents holding lines just 2 km (1 mile) away.
"But in the past few weeks I think a lot of the dynamics have changed there, in terms of what`s going on in the war. The Iranian involvement is a lot more pronounced. Things changed enough that I felt that it was time to come home."
Kurdish sources confirmed her service with YPG to a Reuters correspondent who also met Rosenberg at a Dwekh Nawsha base. Pictures she shared over Facebook showed her holding a rifle at a lookout position and, in full battle gear, guarding prisoners.
"She is a trained fighter with capabilities. She was not afraid," Dwekh Nawsha spokesman Albert Kisso said on Monday.
Iranian-backed Shi`ite militia have led much of the fighting against Islamic State in Iraq over the last year, and Tehran also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has lost large parts of eastern Syria to Islamic State control.
Israel bars its citizens from travelling to Iraq and Syria, with which it is technically at war, as it is with Iran.
The Israeli internal security agency Shin Bet said it questioned Rosenberg after she landed in Tel Aviv. It did not elaborate on whether she would face criminal charges, but an Israeli justice official told Reuters it appeared unlikely.
Rosenberg`s native Canada, from which she emigrated alone to Israel, had also urged her to get out of Syria. The Canadian embassy in Israel did not immediately comment on her return.
U.S. authorities could pose more of a challenge, however.
In 2009, Rosenberg was arrested in Israel over an international phone scam and extradited to the United States, where she served time in prison. Yahel Ben-Oved, one of her lawyers, said Rosenberg won early release in 2013 on condition that she remain paroled either on U.S. or Israeli soil.
"I believe she may have violated this by going to Syria," Ben-Oved told Reuters. "This could be a problem for her."
U.S. officials said they were looking into the case.
Rosenberg declined a Reuters request for an interview, saying she would speak to foreign media later in the week.