(Corrects to show 800 enlistees are from North America in paragraph 5)
By Amanda Orr
HOUSTON, July 21 (Reuters) - Three days before he was killed fighting for Israel in Gaza, American Nissim Sean Carmeli sprained his ankle, and a doctor asked the Texan if he wanted to heal before going into action.
He refused, according to Maya Kadosh, Israel's deputy consul for the U.S. Southwest.
"He said no. He said he wanted to go into combat with his friends," Kadosh told Reuters on Monday.
Carmeli, part of the elite Golani Brigade, and Golani sniper and fellow American Max Steinberg, 23, were among 13 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers killed on Sunday, the bloodiest day of the fighting in Gaza. About 100 Palestinians were killed.
Carmeli, 21, from South Padre Island, and Steinberg, from California's San Fernando Valley, were among the estimated 800 North Americans who enlist yearly in the 175,000-strong Israeli military, according to Joe Berkofsky, spokesman for the non-profit Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Kadosh said Carmeli was born on South Padre, the only son of a Zionist couple who had emigrated from Israel. He has two older sisters and grandparents in Israel.
Carmeli went to Israel at age 15 to attend high school and will have a military funeral there, Kadosh said. He held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.
"People say why would an American go to Israel to fight? I think it makes you more American fighting for what you believe," she said.
LOS ANGELES STUDENT
Steinberg, a student at Pierce College in Los Angeles, visited Israel through the Birthright program, which pays for young Jews to visit from abroad, according to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
He returned to join the IDF in December 2012. The trip to Israel helped Max realize where he belonged, his father, Stuart Steinberg, told the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.
"Although he was American, he truly connected (with Israel)," the newspaper quoted the father as saying. He said his son had not established permanent residence in Israel and was not an Israeli citizen.
Steinberg had been serving on the Syrian border, but the unit was sent to Gaza several days ago, the Journal said. He was killed when his armored personnel carrier was hit by a makeshift bomb or mine.
He had been scheduled to return to the United States in November after military service. He will be buried in Israel, the newspaper said.
Steinberg and Carmeli are among a long line of Americans who have served in the Israeli military, including the country's first general, David "Mickey" Marcus, a Brooklyn-born West Point graduate.
The Supreme Court has ruled that it is not a crime to go abroad to enlist in a foreign army, but it may be illegal when someone is recruited in the United States.
An American can lose citizenship if he or she intends to give it up and serves voluntarily in armed forces fighting the United States, or serves in a foreign military as an officer or non-commissioned officer, according to the State Department. (Additional reporting by Ian Simpson, Steve Gorman and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)
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