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Gaza fire kills 21 people from same family during birthday party

Mourners pray for Palestinians who died in a fire in their apartment building in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022 (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Fatima Shbair, Associated Press

Twenty-one victims of a fire which tore through a top-floor apartment in the Gaza Strip during a birthday party were members of the same family, two of their relatives said.

Officials in Hamas-run Gaza said Thursday night’s blaze in a three-storey residential building in the Jabaliya refugee camp was apparently fuelled by stored petrol.

They said it was not clear how the petrol ignited, with an investigation underway.

It was one of the deadliest incidents in Gaza in recent years outside the violence stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The fire destroyed the top-floor apartment in the building, home to the Abu Raya family.

Mohammed Abu Raya, a family spokesman, told the Associated Press the extended family had gathered for twin celebrations — the birthday of one of the children and the return of one of the adults from a trip to Egypt.

Mr Abu Raya spoke at the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza, where the bodies had been taken and where sobbing relatives were waiting for funeral processions to begin.

He challenged assertions stored petrol fuelled the blaze, saying furniture made from flammable materials was more likely to have accelerated the flames.

“The disaster was that no one came out alive to tell us the truth of things,” he said.

“I do not think that it was stored gasoline.”

Those killed were from three generations — a couple, their five sons and one daughter, two daughters-in-law and 11 grandchildren, according to Mr Abu Raya and Mohammed Jadallah, who had married into the Abu Raya family.

Thousands later joined a funeral procession for the victims.

Gaza faces a severe energy crisis, largely because of a crippling Israeli-Egyptian border blockade that has been in place since the Islamic militant Hamas seized control of the territory 15 years ago.

People often store cooking gas, diesel and petrol in homes in preparation for winter.

House fires have previously been caused by candles and gas leaks.


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