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RICHARDSON -- Cell phone photos show two grinning brothers, four and five years old. Leaning on each other. Hanging onto dad. Playing in a park.

They're cousins of the Muhanna family in Richardson, who cherish pictures of the boys and their mom, Samar Halaq.

All three died together in Gaza when a bomb hit their apartment Sunday.

It happened less than a week after the Muhannas returned from visiting the family in Gaza. They had gone to celebrate their daughter's wedding in June, and were trapped by the fighting.

It's hard to plan a wedding around a war they didn't see coming.

After a month, they said, the explosions became routine.

'It's just regular life in Gaza,' said 21-year-old Rawan Muhanna, a chemistry major at the University of Texas at Dallas. 'My parents needed to go home to go to work. There was no way out.'

Serenity was hard to find.

'I'd be sleeping and I'd hear artillery firing and the rhythm would put me to bed. And I thought, 'Is this really happening?'' she asked.

From their nice home in Richardson, memories remain fresh, but surreal.

Rawan was born in the U.S. to engineer parents who have been trying to become U.S. citizens. Her mother, Reem, still has four brothers in Gaza -- all doctors.

Now, her daughter is there, too.

Bombs fall close.

'One block,' Reem said of one blast near her daughter's home. She tries to stay in constant touch with her.

The United Nations helped get the Muhanna family out of Gaza, crossing into Israel, and then Jordan, before flying back to Texas. They drove through streets of rubble with plumes of smoke in the distance.

Back in the U.S., they have friends who work for defense firms that build the planes that drop the bombs that kill their relatives.

They're grateful for prayers of friends of many faiths. And Reem Muhanna hangs on to hope the fighting will somehow end, some day.

'Yes, I have hope,' she said. 'Humans are, by nature, good.'

She can see that goodness in the faces of the little boys on her cell phone.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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