The Qatari publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, citing an Iraqi security official in Baghdad, has reported new developments regarding the fate of Israeli citizen Elizaveta Tsurkova, who has been held captive by the pro-Iranian Shia group Kata'ib Hezbollah since March 2023.

According to the source, Tsurkova has been moved to a location outside Baghdad under the control of influential armed groups, and she is reported to be alive.

On July 7, Iraqi authorities officially announced the launch of an investigation into Tsurkova's kidnapping, although they have not provided further commentary on the matter.

Quoting an anonymous official from the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed stated, "During a special investigation into the fate of the abducted Israeli woman Elizaveta Tsurkova, it was ultimately revealed that she had been transferred outside Baghdad to an area controlled by influential armed groups, indicating that she is alive and being held by a known Iraqi group... Despite the difficulties, the investigation continues."

The official specified that Tsurkova is currently located in Babil province, central Iraq.

In November, Iraqi TV channel Al Rabiaa released a video featuring Tsurkova, presenting her as Israeli despite also holding a Russian passport.

In the video, which runs just over four minutes, Tsurkova speaks Hebrew, with her words translated into Arabic. She mentions her work for the Mossad and the CIA and references ongoing events, including the conflict in the Gaza Strip. However, it is suspected that the dialogue was scripted for her.

Following Tsurkova's abduction in Baghdad, the office of the head of government issued a statement clarifying her status as a scientist who had traveled to Iraq with a Russian passport to defend her doctoral dissertation and conduct research for Princeton University in the USA.

Tsurkova previously worked for the “Forum for Regional Analysis” of the Israeli research institute “Molad” and the Washington Institute of the Center for Global Policy, focusing on the Syrian conflict.

She had collaborated with various media outlets, including ours. In March 2023, she was captured by the Iraqi Hezbollah militia in northern Iraq while gathering material for her doctoral thesis.

In March 2021, Tsurkova expressed opposition to prisoner exchange deals, even if her future visits to Syria or Iraq did not unfold as planned.

Al-Monitor sheds light on the ordeal of Elizaveta Tsurkova, describing her as a "trump card" for her captors, as Netanyahu reaches out to Putin.

According to an article by Amberin Zaman, Tsurkova was abducted in Baghdad on March 21, 2023.

It's noted that she had been residing in the Iraqi capital for an extended period, and just eight days prior to her abduction, she underwent surgery at a local hospital for a back injury.

During her time in Baghdad, Tsurkova conducted interviews with supporters of influential Shiia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Monitor reports that Tsurkova was taken by members of the Shia paramilitary group Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), which is affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and part of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) formed to combat the Sunni Islamic State.

Israeli authorities assert that Tsurkova is being held by the pro-Iranian Shia militia Kata'ib Hezbollah, which operates within the PMU and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States since 2009.

Tsurkova reportedly entered Iraq using her Russian passport, a practice she has employed multiple times in the past.

Sources cited by Al-Monitor claim that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directly engaged with Russian President Vladimir Putin in efforts to secure Tsurkova's release.

These sources express certainty that the militia responsible for Tsurkova's abduction acted in concert with Iranian authorities, aiming to leverage her as a bargaining chip for prisoner exchanges or other concessions.

The 2016 Scandal

The 2016 scandal involving Tsurkova saw the resignation of Islam Alloush, then-speaker of the Syrian rebel group "Army of Islam," after she interviewed him, making her the first Israeli woman to do so.

The publication of this interview, in which Alloush did not oppose a peace agreement between Syria and Israel, stirred controversy in the Arab media and led to his resignation.

Tsurkova clarified that her Syrian interviewees remained anonymous due to safety concerns but asserted that Alloush had given permission to use his name.

The aftermath saw the original interview being mistranslated and misinterpreted by Syrian government media, contributing to Alloush's resignation.

Tsurkova emphasized the necessity of Israeli-Syrian contacts amid regional turmoil.