Two Americans who were soldiers for the Israel Defense Force were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Stuart Steinberg confirmed the death of his Max Steinberg, 24, to The Associated Press on Sunday. Steinberg, whose family lives in Southern California's San Fernando Valley, was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade. He was one of 13 men killed in fighting Sunday during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Earlier Sunday, the IDF said in a statement that Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, was killed in combat in the Gaza Strip. Carmeli was from South Padre Island, Texas, said Israeli Deputy Consul General Maya Kadosh. The consulate helped Carmeli's family get a flight to Israel on Sunday, she said.
Rabbi Asher Hect of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, who is a longtime family friend, said Carmeli joined the Israeli army after high school about four years ago and was in the Golani Brigade.
"He had great energy, yet had a kind and gentle soul," Hect said. Carmeli was the youngest of three and has two sisters who currently live in Israel.
Steinberg was living in Beersheba, Israel. He attended Pierce College and El Camino Real High School in Southern California.
He visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip with his younger brother and sister in June 2012, his father said. When he returned, he made an announcement to 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, making the move in December.
"He went back," Steinberg said. "He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel. He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing."
On Sunday morning, the Steinbergs were visited by representatives from the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. They broke the news of Max Steinberg's death.
Stuart Steinberg last spoke to his son at 4 a.m. Saturday California time, 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 at the hospital. 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.
Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.