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L.A. parents of fallen Israeli soldier say he believed in mission

L.A. parents of fallen Israeli soldier say he was unafraid, believed in mission
Parents of fallen Israeli soldier from L.A. expected to travel to Israel to bury their son
It was unclear how Max Steinberg, fallen Israeli soldier from L.A., died in Gaza, military says

The Los Angeles parents of an American-born Israeli soldier killed in Gaza say their son was dedicated to his mission.

Max Steinberg, 24, of Woodland Hills, was one of 13 soldiers killed over the weekend as fighting intensified. Dozens of people who knew him, and some who didn't, gathered at a vigil Sunday night at Lazy J. Ranch Park in West Hills, reported ABC-TV Channel 7. 

“He would be really, really happy and proud to see all of the outpour of all this love here," said his mother, Evelyn Steinberg.

Max Steinberg joined the Israel Defense Forces in 2012 after making a birthright trip to Israel, ABC reported. A birthright trip is generally one in which Jewish young adults travel throughout Israel, exploring sites of historical, cultural and religious significance. The trip aims to strengthen participants' identities as Jews, connect them with the land and reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people.

“Max had an amazing connection with the people," said his father, Stuart Steinberg. "The experience was beyond anything that he could personally have imagined." 

He learned Hebrew to join an elite unit, the Golani, in which he became a sniper, ABC reported.

His mother said her son knew what he wanted to do and would not be deterred from it. She said he was not afraid and believed in the mission.

“There are those who wouldn’t want to go into combat, but Max did," she said.

The Steinbergs planned to travel Monday to Israel, where they will bury their son, ABC reported.

It was unclear exactly how Steinberg died, but the Israeli military announced Sunday that 13 members of the Golani Brigade were killed by militants last weekend in the northern Gaza Strip.

Seven of them died when an explosive device hit an armored vehicle, one died in a firefight, two died in a separate attack and three died in a burning building, the Israel Defense Forces said.

At least 100 militants have been killed since Thursday, when Israel began the ground phase of a military offensive that is now in its 13th day, Israeli reports said. The total Palestinian death toll in the two-week crisis has topped 500. A total of 25 Israeli soldiers have been reported killed in the campaign.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @Caitlin__Owens, or email her at caitlin.owens@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

11:33 a.m. This post was updated to explain what a birthright trip is and to update the toll of Israeli soldiers killed in the recent Gaza violence from 18 to 25.

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