10 workers saw their friend die

Mane Singauephon came to Netiv Ha’asara more than three years ago to support his family back home.

Thursday’s brief afternoon rain could not wash the blood out of a small pile of sand, where hours earlier the body of Thai worker Mane Singauephon had lain.
He was killed around 11 a.m., when a rocket fell through the roof of a hothouse where he worked on the border with Gaza.
The Kassam carved a small hole in the cement pavement. Some of its shards flew a few meters to where Singauephon stood, just outside the hothouse that was filled with tables of small potted plants that stretched for rows and rows.
He had come to the small community of Netiv Ha’asara more than three years ago to support his wife and child back home.
“Ten workers witnessed the death of their friend,” said Yair Farjun, head of the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council. He added that paramedics from Netiv Ha’asara and Magen David Adom had tried to resuscitate Singauephon, but his wounds were too serious.
Moshe Vaknin, a paramedic who raced to the scene from Sderot, said Singauephon had been hit in several parts of the body, including his head, back and left arm.
“It would have been a miracle if he had survived,” said Vaknin.
Scores of people were treated for shock on the scene, and two who were more seriously shaken psychologically were taken to the hospital, he said.
Farjun added that the workers had “experienced a terrible trauma. Social workers spoke to them on an individual and group basis through a translator. I went there personally myself. We told them we were there for them, we came to support them. Certainly, we will continue to monitor them tomorrow and on Sunday.”
Following the attack, the Thai workers went to their homes behind the hothouses for the remainder of the day, Farjun added, noting, “We were not sure whether the IDF would respond immediately and the situation would escalate.”
At the time of the attack, most of the foreign laborers who worked in the hothouses were on a break, according to residents of the moshav. Singauephon was one of the few who was outside when the rocket fell.
A number of rockets have hit in the area in the last few months. There have been a number of false warning sirens as well.
These attacks are so much a part of normal life for the 800 people who live in the small border community of single-family stucco homes, that they don’t always run at the first sign of danger, said the moshav’s council head, Rivka Sa’ad.
She herself was at her computer when the siren went off, and did not race for a protected space.
“It’s too disruptive to jump up every time,” said Sa’ad.
She only found out about the direct hit when the moshav’s security head called her on the telephone.
In the past decade, rockets have battered this farming community, founded in 1982 by evacuees from the Sinai settlement of the same name. Rockets have hit a home and a hothouse, and on July 14, 2005, local Sapir Academic College student Dana Galkowicz was killed as she visited the same family whose hothouse was hit Thursday.
Before Operation Cast Lead, when the IDF went into Gaza in January 2009, rockets hit daily in the area of the moshav, sometimes several times a day, said Sa’ad.
“Since Operation Cast Lead, it has been relatively quiet,” she said. This was the first rocket attack that caused damage and a fatality, she added.
She did not know whether the attack was the start of a new wave of violence from Gaza, or an isolated incident.
But, she said, she was certain that the brief break from violent attacks was only temporary.
“I don’t know if the attacks will resume tomorrow, but it is clear to me that one day they will return,” said Sa’ad.
In spite of the morning’s violence, a number of children played in a small park by the community’s grocery store, as their mothers sat on a bench.
“We’ve gotten used to this,” said one woman, Limor, who did not want to give her last name.
But much of their conversation centered on the attack, and they shared details of what they knew.
Laced with their concern for personal safety was a fear of the financial consequences, either because the foreign workers might leave or because investors and buyers might not want to continue to do business.
The owners of the hothouse were so worried, they did not want their name used in the article, and they banned photographers from photographing any external details that would give away their identity.
In the afternoon, a member of the family met with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who visited the site of the attack. Red-eyed, having raced back from Tel Aviv where she had been caring for her grandchildren, she and a number of residents recounted the day’s events for him.
One resident of the community, who also did not want to be named, urged the minister to help them find funds to take the children out of Netiv Ha’asara during the coming days.
“Vacation starts tomorrow, and we feel that we have nowhere to turn,” he said.
As Ayalon spoke with reporters in front of a geranium hothouse about the incident, foreign workers a short distance away mourned the death of their friend by holding a prayer vigil.
Some of the workers said that in the past, they had not been afraid when rockets had hit, but now they would have to think about whether to remain there. A few others said they believed they would stay regardless.
In many cases, when there is a warning siren, they simply drop to the floor, wait, and then continue working.
In the small shack with space for just two beds, which Singauephon had shared with another worker, they had placed a small headshot of the victim and lit incense. They also set up a small white cardboard box to collect money for his widow.
“He was a very good man,” said one of his friends from Thailand.
“He loved his wife very much,” said Dawa Lami of Nepal.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.