Israel announced on Wednesday that Princeton University doctoral candidate Elizaveta Tsurkova was taken hostage in Iraq by the Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah. Tsurkova used her Russian passport to travel for “academic research,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.
Tsurkova was “disappeared for several months” but is still alive, Netanyahu’s office said, adding that Israel holds Iraq responsible for its fate and security.
A diplomatic source speaking to the Jerusalem Post “categorically refused” that the woman was a Mossad agent or that her trip to Iraq was “any official Israeli business”. The source said that Israel was doing “all he can” through several diplomatic channels to secure his release.
West Jerusalem would have preferred to remain silent about the hostage-taking, but chose to release the information ahead of a report on the issue, the source added.
The report in question appears to be from The Cradle. The outlet said Tsurkova was “kidnapped from a house in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad on March 26” and that his captors wore “official uniforms of the Iraqi security services”.
According to Iraqi security sources, Tsurkova arrived in the Kurdistan region before settling in Baghdad, using a Russian passport as Israeli citizens are banned from entering the country. She may also have used the same documents to travel to Syria and Lebanon, the Israeli diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post.
The Russian Embassy in Baghdad told the Cradle that it had “no evidence on the individual mentioned in your application or on his nationality or his history in Iraq.”
Tsurkova speaks Arabic, English, Hebrew and Russian. The last message about her Twitter profile It was March 21. She had served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and led a Palestinian rights NGO, before reinventing herself as an expert on the conflict in Syria. She championed regime change in Damascus and promoted the “moderate rebels” such as the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, later known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
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