Iraq-based Kata’ib Hezbollah released a video on Monday night of kidnapped Israeli-Russian academic Elizabeth Tsurkov.
The four-minute video was the first sign of life released by the Iran-backed terror group since it captured Tsurkov in Baghdad in March.
“My name is Elizabeth Tsurkov. I am an Israeli citizen. I will soon turn 37 years old,” Tsurkov says in the clip. She goes on to urge family members to help secure her release.
“I arrived in Iraq with the Mossad and the CIA. I’ve been imprisoned for more than seven months,” Tsurkov continues. She also addresses Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist organization, indicating that the footage was recorded in recent weeks.
JNS has decided not to publish Kata’ib Hezbollah’s propaganda video on its website. Officials in Jerusalem have previously refuted claims that Tsurkov worked for the Israeli intelligence agency.
“We are relieved to see our Liza alive,” Emma Tsurkov told Israel’s Ynetnews on Monday, adding: “We won’t comment on the content of her statements, as it’s clear she was forced to say them.”
In July, Arab sources reported that the Princeton University researcher had been abducted after initiating a meeting with members of Kataib Hezbollah (“The Battalions of the Party of God”).
The United States has designated Kata’ib Hezbollah (a separate and distinct organization from the Lebanese Hezbollah) as a terrorist organization.
Tsurkov met with Ahmed Alewani, who gave her access to his son, David Muhammad Alewani—a senior Kata’ib Hezbollah official. During their second meeting, the Alewanis discovered that she was Israeli and decided to kidnap her.
The sources said that there had been at least one attempt to move Tsurkov to Iran, but that it was not clear whether this attempt was successful.
Tsurkov, a Princeton doctoral candidate and nonresident fellow at the Washington think tank New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, entered Iraq using a Russian passport, visiting the Kurdistan Region before heading to the Iraqi capital.
While Tsurkov is not a U.S. citizen, Emma Tsurkov is pressing Washington to use its financial support to Iraq as leverage to secure her sister’s freedom.
In September, Emma met in Washington with U.S. State Department, Israeli and Russian officials, according to the Associated Press, which noted that Iraqi diplomats “blew [her] off.”
“I really never wanted to do any of this. But I realized that everyone is interested but no one is going to do anything to actually bring her home,” she told AP. “I don’t see anything being done to bring my sister back.”