Authorities and family members say two Americans who were soldiers with the Israel Defence Forces have been killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Stuart Steinberg confirmed the death of his 24-year-old son, Max Steinberg, to The Associated Press on Sunday. Steinberg, whose family lives in California, was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade and was one of 13 men killed in fighting Sunday.
Earlier Sunday, the IDF said in a statement that 21-year-old Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli was killed in combat in the Gaza Strip. Deputy Israeli Consul General Maya Kadosh said Carmeli was from Texas. The consulate helped Carmeli's family get a flight to Israel on Sunday, she said.
Rabbi Asher Hecht of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, who is a family friend, said Carmeli joined the Israeli army about four years ago and was in the Golani Brigade.
"He had great energy, yet had a kind and gentle soul," Hecht said.
Steinberg was living in Beersheba, Israel. He visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip in June 2012, his father said. When he returned, he told his parents that he was planning to return and join the IDF, Steinberg said. He made good on that promise less than six months later.
"He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel," Steinberg said. "He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing."
Stuart Steinberg last spoke to his son at 4 a.m. California time Saturday, hours before his death. Max Steinberg called his father to tell him that his group had been injured when two of their tanks collided. They had to return to Israel for treatment. Some soldiers had broken bones, and Max Steinberg had sprained his back, his father said.
"He called me up at 4 a.m. that morning and said he'd be returning to Gaza, back to combat, to be with his friends," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said the family is leaving on Monday for Israel, where their son will be buried.
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