- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Israeli soldier missing as Gaza fighting rages on and truce efforts continue

JERUSALEM (AP) - An Israeli soldier is missing following a deadly battle in the Gaza Strip, a defense official said Tuesday as Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of targets in the coastal strip and diplomatic efforts intensified to end more than two weeks of fighting that has killed at least 585 Palestinians and 29 Israelis.

The defense official told The Associated Press the soldier went missing after a deadly battle in Gaza over the weekend and it was not immediately clear if he was dead or alive. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident with media.

The development adds a further complication to international efforts to broker a truce. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Cairo late Monday to launch the highest-level push yet to end the deadly conflict. The U.N. has said that the majority of the Palestinians killed were civilians, among them dozens of children.

Israel has said its campaign, launched July 8, is aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire into Israel - some 2,000 rockets have been launched over the past two weeks, the military says - and destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis.Overnight, Israel bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hamas military chief, a Gaza police official said.

The airstrikes set off huge explosions that turned the night sky over Gaza City orange early Tuesday. The sound of the blasts mixed with the thud of shelling, often just seconds apart, and the pre-dawn call to prayer from mosque loudspeakers.

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American Jews, other foreigners feel calling to serve Israeli military despite the dangers

The two Americans killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip followed in the footsteps of scores of Jews from around the world who have volunteered to fight for Israel.

Israel calls them the lone soldiers: They are men and women in the prime of their lives who have left their parents and often comfortable lives behind in places like Sydney, London, Los Angeles and elsewhere to join the Israel Defense Forces, marching in the desert and taking up arms to defend the Jewish state.

There are about 2,000 lone soldiers currently serving in the military, said Marina Rozhansky, spokeswoman at the Israel Consul General in Los Angeles. Groups for families of lone soldiers have recently started in Los Angeles and other cities, providing a support network as the fighting intensifies.

For Jews who left Israel before the age of 15 or who never lived there, their service is voluntary. For many, it is a calling, a way to get back to their roots and unite the world’s Jewish population. Some have dual citizenship. Others speak little to no Hebrew and have only recently been to Israel.

Max Steinberg, 24, who grew up in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, joined six months after he visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip with his younger brother and sister in June 2012, said Jake Steinberg, who spoke to The Associated Press hours after learning his brother, a sharpshooter in the Golani Brigade, was among 13 Israeli soldiers and scores of Palestinians over the weekend who died during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Jewish Journal was first to report Steinberg’s death.

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Train bearing bodies from Malaysia Airlines crash arrives in Kharkiv

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