Palestine Declares Day Of Mourning After Fire Kills 21 In Gaza

Gaza- At least 21 people have been killed and several others injured after a fire broke out in a building where residents attended a party in Gaza, health and civil emergency officials said.

Footage circulated on social media showed and witnesses said the whole residential building caught fire on Thursday in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, sending up flames and smoke from the site.

Witnesses said they could hear screaming but they could not reach the victims to offer help because of the intensity of the fire.

Gaza’s civil defence unit confirmed in a statement that 21 people had been killed.

Jabalia is one of eight refugee camps in Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, and one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Hamas, which governs the Israel-blockaded Palestinian enclave, said the cause of the fire remained unknown and that several others had been injured, without providing figures.

Palestine to mourn deaths

The head of the Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia, Saleh Abu Laila, told the AFP news agency that the facility had received the bodies of at least seven children.

While the cause of the fire remained unknown, a spokesperson for the civil defence unit told AFP that supplies of fuel were stored in the house.

Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — a separate Palestinian territory — called the fire “a national tragedy”, his spokesperson said.

Abbas declared a day of mourning on Friday, with flags to be flown at half-mast, and offered to send aid to families of the victims to “ease their suffering”, spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

A senior official with the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, Hussein Al Sheikh, said in reaction to the blaze that the PA had urged Israel to open the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel for urgent medical evacuations of serious cases.

Israeli blockade 

Gaza, densely populated with 2.3 million people, has been under Israeli blockade since 2007.

With the electricity supply sparse in the impoverished territory, domestic blazes are common, as Gaza residents seek alternative sources for cooking and light, including kerosene lamps.

This year Gaza received an average of 12 hours of mains electricity daily, up from just seven hours five years ago, according to United Nations data.

New dangers arise in the winter when many people burn coal for heat.

Hamas said an investigation was under way to determine the cause.

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