During birthday celebrations, a fire broke out in an apartment in Jabalia, which quickly spread through a four-story building.
According to local sources, a fire at a residential building in the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza has killed at least 21 people and injured several others.
Ambulances rushed several injured to local hospitals, and Israel, which maintains a blockade of Gaza with Egypt, said Thursday it would allow people in need of medical treatment.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that several children were among the dead.
Gaza’s interior ministry said an initial investigation revealed large quantities of gasoline were stored at the site, fueling the fire that quickly engulfed the building.
It took firefighters more than an hour to bring massive flames under control as they burst through the top floor of a four-story residential building. Witnesses said they could hear screams but were unable to help those trapped due to the intensity of the fire.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the fire.
“It is a tragic incident. Many of the victims have not yet been identified because they are badly burned,” said Al Jazeera correspondent Youmna ElSayed, reporting from Gaza.
She said candles lit at a birthday party started the fire. “When candles were lit, a fire quickly broke out and an explosion occurred,” she said.
The city’s civil defense services are not adequately equipped to handle such emergencies effectively, said Al Jazeera’s ElSayed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it a national tragedy and said a day of mourning would come.
Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement that the Palestinian Authority urged Israel to open the Erez crossing with Gaza to transport serious cases to take them outside the besieged areas. enclave if necessary.
Deeply saddened by the tragic death of 21 people after a fire broke out in the Jabalia refugee camp, north of #Gaza.
Reports say the dead include at least 8 children, 4 women and 1 retired UNRWA personnel. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and community
— UNRWA (@UNRWA) November 17, 2022
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. The enclave has been under an air, sea and land blockade imposed by Israel since 2007.
“The president has issued instructions to urgently provide all forms of medical and other assistance,” al-Sheikh said on Twitter.
A spokesman for COGAT, the unit of the Israeli Defense Ministry that manages the border crossing at Erez, told AFP that Israel will provide “assistance … if necessary” through the transit point.
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, tweeted that it was “deeply saddened by the tragic death of 21 people” in the fire and expressed its “deepest condolences to families and the community.”
Tor Wennesland, the UN peace envoy to the Middle East, also sent his “sincere condolences” to the families of those killed in the incident in a post on Twitter.