At least 21 people were killed and many injured in a fire at a building in the Gaza Strip, health and civil emergency officials said on Thursday.
It is one of the deadliest events in recent years apart from the violence stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It took firefighters more than an hour to contain the massive flames that erupted on the top floor of a four-story residential building in the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
Ambulances took many injured to local hospitals, and Israel, which has a blockade of Gaza with Egypt, said it would allow those in need of medical treatment to be admitted.
Saleh abu Laila, head of the Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the facility has received the bodies of at least seven dead children.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry said an initial investigation revealed that large quantities of gasoline were stored at the scene, fueling the flames that quickly engulfed the building.
Eyewitnesses said they heard screams, but they were unable to help the occupants due to the severity of the fire.
Gaza is facing a serious energy crisis. People usually store cooking gas, diesel and gasoline at home in preparation for the winter. House fires had previously been caused by candles and gas leaks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the event as a national tragedy and said that one day mourning would be declared.
In a statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was stated that Turkey conveyed its condolences to the families of the martyrs and the Palestinian people and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian Authority official, urged Israel to open the border crossing with Gaza to allow the evacuation of the wounded who need advanced medical care to Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
“The President has instructed to urgently provide all kinds of medical and other assistance,” Al-Sheikh said on Twitter.
Tor Wennesland, the United Nations peace envoy for the Middle East, expressed his “heartfelt condolences” to the families of those who lost their lives in the incident in a post on Twitter.
Jabalia is one of eight refugee camps in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to 2.3 million people.
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