A 22-year-old Maryland man called up this month to serve in the Israel Defense Forces has been killed near the nation’s border with Lebanon.
Omer Balva, of Rockville, was with his unit stationed near the Israel-Lebanon border when he was killed by an antitank missile fired by the militant group Hezbollah, according to The Washington Post. He was serving as a staff sergeant in the 9203rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade from Herzliya, The Times of Israel reported.
The U.S. State Department confirmed Balva died Oct. 20 and offered sincere condolences to the family. A spokesperson for the department said it stands ready to provide appropriate consular assistance but declined to comment further out of respect for the family’s privacy. Balva’s family could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Earlier this month, Israel reportedly called about 360,000 reservists back to service as the war with Hamas began, including some like Balva who were in the United States at the time.
News of his death over the weekend reached the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, which he attended from age 7 until he graduated in 2019.
“He is a hero to the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and the school,” said a tweet from the institution on Saturday. “We are devastated and heartbroken.”
Balva’s paternal family has deep roots in Tveria, Israel, where some of his ancestors settled in 1492 after they were expelled from Toledo, Spain, according to a presentation on his family posted online in 2018.
“My passion has always been to protect Israel and suggest what is best for what I believe is the greatest country in the world,” he wrote in the presentation. Balva added that he hoped to one day raise a family in Israel.
This article may be updated.