Colo. students witnessed Israeli-Palestinian conflict firsthand

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Photo: Watching shelling in IsraelTwo college students in Colorado are back home after witnessing the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians firsthand.

Devin Hogan from the University of Denver and Kate Simmons, a Colorado native studying at Colorado State University, were in the midst of a month-long journalism program when war broke out in early July. The two sides are now in a temporary cease fire.

Hogan and Simmons arrived in Israel at the end of June, and, within a week, were covering a major conflict.

Israelis found the bodies of three teenagers who had been killed. Then a Palestinian teen was killed, presumably in retaliation. Those two events set off intense fighting. At least 1,650 Gazans, 63 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians have died since, according to tallies complied by NPR -- although reporters have had a hard time determining death tolls.

Hogan and Simmons traveled around Israel and the West Bank, talking with local residents about their experiences. Simmons says the experience taught her how violence comes about.

"It was like a fire -- starting as embers and then struck a big flame and grew," she says. "I witnessed that, and it helped me understand conflict."

Photo: Bomb shelter on Israeli playground
A bomb shelter on a playground in Sderot, Israel.