Young Gaza artist among those killed in Israeli strike

Khan Younis, Gaza Strip (AP) — When Israeli bombs began to fall last week, Duniana al-Amour, 22, ran into her room and tried to escape to her art and painting, as she did in Gaza’s past wars.

But this time, her pencil never met paper.

An Israeli shell struck outside her home on Friday, making her one of the first of at least 47 Palestinians killed in three days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group, including 16 children. She was killed in a surprise Israeli fire hours before the militants fired any rockets.

In the shattered bedroom where she died, her paintings, mostly black-and-white portraits of relatives, some of whom were killed in previous rounds of fighting in Gaza, can be seen. Her mother, her brother and two sisters-in-law were baking bread in another room with only minor injuries. A few days later, the bread was on a wooden tray – from the moment the shell hit it, it was a still life.

One of her sister-in-law, Simone, said Almore’s life revolved around her art. “She painted whether she was happy or sad. She would bring a chair to the backyard and sit and paint. She attracted all of us,” Simone said.

Her death highlights the vulnerability of Palestinian civilians amid frequent conflict, including four wars between Israel and the territory’s radical Hamas ruler Since they took power in Gaza 15 years ago. These wars have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, according to the United Nations. More than 100 people have been killed on the Israeli side.

Those killed in the latest violence included two senior Islamic Jihad commanders, one of whom Israel said was trying to deter an imminent attack.But many civilians were also killed, including as many as 16 may have been killed Caused by rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

Islamic Jihad fired about 1,100 rockets, but the Israeli military said about 200 fell short of their target, and most of the rest were intercepted or landed in open areas. No Israelis were killed or seriously injured in the latest round of fighting.

Egypt mediates ceasefire Violence ended late Sundaybut grief still hangs over the barren land.

The Gaza Strip has also been under a severe Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took over, which Israel says is needed to prevent militants from rearming. Critics see the blockade severely restricting access to the narrow seaside territory – home to more than 2 million Palestinians – as collective punishment.

Al-Amour tried to escape the misery of Gaza through art. Her relatives say she has little interest in politics and dreams of making a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Nestled among farmland and olive groves near the border, her home is an idyllic setting far from Gaza’s densely populated cities and refugee camps. It is also on the front lines whenever a new round of fighting breaks out.

The Israeli military said it had “accurately hit legitimate military targets” in the latest operation and “made every effort to prevent and minimize harm to civilians”. It had no immediate comment on the strike near al-Amour’s home.

Near the border, Israel destroyed several guard towers manned by Palestinian militants, apparently with artillery or tank shells, including one about 500 meters (yards) from al-Amour’s home. Video distributed by the military shows some of the attacks – towers rising in smoke and people inside disappearing instantly.

The family only knew that the shells that killed al-Amour came from the direction of the border fence. Dujana’s grieving brother, Mohammad Amur, said Israel had advanced surveillance and targeting capabilities and had to know what it was targeting.

“They brag about the technology,” he said, “and they know who the civilians are.”

___ Associated Press writer Joseph Krause in Ottawa, Ontario contributed to this report.

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