Thousands mourn victims of Palestinian fires in Gaza
Jabalia (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – Thousands of Palestinians turned out on Friday for the funeral of 21 people who died in a building fire in the Gaza Strip, an AFP correspondent said.
At least seven children were among the dead in the fire at the Jabalia Palestinian refugee camp on Thursday night, Indonesian hospital director Saleh Abu Lai said.
Mourners carried the coffins, draped in Palestinian flags, through the crowds in the camp to Beit Lahia cemetery for burial.
While the cause of the fire remained unknown, a spokesperson for the civil protection unit told AFP that reserves of fuel were stored in the three-storey building.
Jabalia is a refugee camp, but like many of these Palestinian camps, it now includes large buildings and in many ways resembles a city.
With electricity supplies scarce in this impoverished territory, house fires are common as Gazans seek alternative sources for cooking and lighting, including kerosene lamps.
Gaza, densely populated with 2.3 million people, has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, when the Islamist movement Hamas took power.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted that his staff would help with “humanitarian evacuations of the wounded to (Israeli) hospitals.”
He expressed his sympathy for the “serious catastrophe” in Gaza.
However, it was not immediately clear whether any of the approximately 15 people injured in the fire had been transported out of Gaza.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – a separate Palestinian territory – considered the fire “a national tragedy”, his spokesman said.
In May last year, a war between Hamas militants and Israel claimed 260 lives in the territory, authorities in Gaza said, and killed 13 in Israel, according to the police and military.
Israel and another Iranian-backed militant group, Islamic Jihad, fought a three-day conflict in Gaza in August this year.
© 2022 AFP