Gaza committee calls for deal to exchange Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostage Elizabeth Tsurkov

Members of the Palestinian Prisoners Committee hold a rally outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Gaza City on July 17, 2023, demanding the Iraqi government to include Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in the exchange for Israeli-Russian academic Elizabeth Tsurkov. (Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto

A Palestinian group this week called for Iraq to negotiate a deal to release Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel in exchange for Middle East analyst, Elizabeth Tsurkov, who is reportedly being held hostage in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The “Prisoners’ Committee of the National and Islamic Forces in Gaza” staged a protest in the Gaza Strip that was attended by various political and Islamic leaders, including former prisoners, according to Palestinian news outlet Al-Quds.

Tsurkov, who holds dual Israeli-Russian citizenship, was abducted by an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq on March 23 while researching Jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq for her Ph.D. Since the kidnapping, Israeli officials say that Hezbollah Brigades, one of the most prominent paramilitary forces operating in Iraq, is reportedly the group holding Tsurkov hostage.

An Arab media outlet reported that Tsurkov’s kidnapping was carried out specifically to pressure Israel to release Yousef Shahbazi Abbasalilo, an Iranian operative who was captured by Israel’s Mossad spy agency while planning a terror attack in Cyprus.

Gaza prisoner committee coordinator, Zaki Dababish called Tsurkov a Zionist terrorist, noting that she lives in a Jewish settlement Gush Etzion in the Judean hills which he contended was, “one of the most hateful Zionist settlements, separating the north of the West Bank from the south.”

In addition, Dababish said that Tsurkov used to work for former Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky, whom Dababish claimed is “one of the most violent and extremist Zionists.”

Former Soviet refusenik, Natan Sharansky, spent nine years in Soviet prisons for his role in exposing Soviet human rights abuses.

“Our people in Iraq have captured the Israeli Elizabeth Tsurkov, a terrorist of the usurper entity, which has wreaked havoc in Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere,” Dababish told Al-Quds.

However, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Tsurkov’s credentials paint a far different picture than Dababish’s portrayal.

“This is an academic who visited Iraq, using her Russian passport, at her own initiative pursuant to work on her doctorate and academic research on behalf of Princeton University in the United States,” Netanyahu’s office said of Tsurkov.

Tsurkov, 36, hold’s a master’s degree in Middle Eastern History from Tel Aviv University and a bachelor’s degree in Communications and International Relations from Hebrew University – Jerusalem.

Furthermore, the academic is known as an advocate of human rights for Palestinians living in Gaza, highlighting the need for the Palestinians for humanitarian aid. She has worked for various human rights organizations and NGOs in the region for over a decade, including The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Tsurkov is also a fellow at the Washington-based non-partisan think tank, New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy.


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