A Lesson From the Death in Gaza of a Scranton Native’s Son

Moshe Phillips

Moshe Phillips

The son of a Pennsylvania immigrant to Israel was killed in a Gaza tunnel — a tunnel built with concrete that Hamas was able to import thanks, in part, to the intervention of the U.S. government.

Moshe Yedidya Leiter, 39, a major in the IDF reserves, was one of four soldiers who died in the Nov. 10 explosion of a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun neighborhood.

Leiter’s father, Yehiel Leiter, was born and raised in Scranton, President Joe Biden’s hometown, and Yechiel Leiter served as chief of staff to Benjamin Netanyahu when Bibi was Israel’s finance minister.

Moshe Leiter, a paramedic and U.S. citizen, was in the midst of studies to become a doctor. He leaves a widow and six children. The youngest is less than 3 months old. Thanks to the Palestinian Arab terrorists of Gaza, that baby will never know his father.

Some people complain about the fact that large numbers of haredi Orthodox Israeli men do not serve in the army or the general workforce. Leiter was involved in a program that trained young haredi men in computer science for them to serve in a particular unit of the IDF. Hundreds of haredim “who are now serving in the army and will later join the high-tech market passed under his hand,” a colleague wrote on X (Twitter) after Leiter’s death.
Leiter lived an extraordinary life, filled with extraordinary accomplishments, tragically cut short by Hamas terrorists.

But there is an additional, troubling element to his death: the question of whether it could have been prevented, and what the role of our own government might have been.
Dennis Ross, a U.S. envoy to the Middle East, admitted in an op-ed in The Washington Post in August 2014 that he put pressure on Israel to allow Hamas to import cement into Gaza.
Ross acknowledged that he knew the cement might be misused.

“At times, I argued with Israeli leaders and security officials, telling them they needed to allow more construction materials, including cement, into Gaza so that housing, schools and basic infrastructure could be built,” Ross wrote. “They countered that Hamas would misuse it, and they were right.”

We will never know if that cement was used to build the particular tunnel where Leiter was murdered. What we do know is that the cement was used to build thousands of terror tunnels in Gaza. And it is because of those tunnels that Israeli soldiers such as Leiter had to go into Gaza and target the tunnels, one by one. That is what put him in harm’s way. That is why he lost his life.

There is a second way in which our own government must bear some responsibility for this tragedy. The tunnel entrance where Leiter and his comrades were killed was situated next to a mosque.

Hamas deliberately built the tunnels next to, or sometimes underneath, hospitals, schools, day cares and mosques in the hope that the international community would pressure Israel to refrain from bombing those sites.

And Hamas calculated correctly. Because of the Biden administration’s pressure to reduce civilian casualties — even at the cost of its own soldiers’ lives — Israel has sent its soldiers on foot to danger’s door, instead of bombing more intensely.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt never ordered American soldiers to risk their lives to spare enemy civilians. Our planes bombed civilian areas in Germany and Japan when the war effort demanded it.

So even as we salute the courage and sacrifice of Leiter, and mourn with his parents, let’s learn a lesson from this tragic episode. Let’s not listen to the “experts” who advise Israel to take risks that no other country takes. The price is just too high, and this time a family with Pennsylvania roots is grieving because of it.


  1. The US absurdity to ask that Gazans be spared when Hamas uses Gazans to shield them is the real tragedy. War is terrible. Starting a war puts the blame on the perpetrators. Germany started the second world war and the Japan. Who would have asked for a surgical military response?


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