Two American soldiers fighting for the Israeli Defense Force were killed fighting in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
Max Steinberg, 24, and Sean Carmeli, 21, both U.S. citizens, were among 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians killed during the first major ground battle of the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas, according to ABC News.
Carmeli, originally from South Padre Island, Texas, moved to Israel four years ago and joined the army after finishing high school there.
“He was a proud soldier,” Rabbi Asher Hecht, co-director of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, told CBS News. “In my mind, he was a hero. He wanted to be there for the Jewish people in their time of need.”
Steinberg grew up in South California. He visited Israel on a Birthright Israel trip in 2012, after which he decided to return and join the IDF, his father said. He was a sharpshooter for the Golani brigade.
“He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel,” his father told ABC. “He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing.”
The Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center’s Facebook page wrote of the two soldiers: “They made the ultimate sacrifice, in an attempt to rid the world of one of the most evil, unimaginable and horrible organizations to ever exist.”