Gaza: At least 21 killed, several others hurt in Jabalia refugee camp fire

Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire which broke out in one of the apartments in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza strip (AFP)
Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire which broke out in one of the apartments in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza strip (AFP)

At least 21 people have been killed and several others injured after a fire broke out at a party in a residential building in Gaza.

It took firefighters more than an hour to get the massive blaze under control after flames burst through the top floor of a four-story building in the Jabalia refugee camp, health and civil emergency officials said on Thursday.

Several injured people were taken to hospitals, while Israel, which along with Egypt maintains a blockade on Gaza, said it would allow people in need of medical treatment in.

Initial investigations of the site revealed that large amounts of gasoline had been stored there, which helped to fuel the blaze that quickly engulfed the building, Gaza’s Interior Ministry said.

Witnesses said they could hear screaming but they could not get to those inside the building because of the intensity of the fire.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called the incident a national tragedy and said a day of mourning would follow.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said in a statement that the Palestinian Authority urged Israel to open the Erez crossing with Gaza to allow the transportation of the most seriously hurt so they could be treated outside the enclave if necessary.

“The president gave instructions to provide all forms of medical and other assistance urgently,” Mr Sheikh said on Twitter.

Tor Wennesland, the United Nations’ Middle East peace envoy expressed “heartfelt condolences” to the families of those who died in the incident, in a post on Twitter.

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

Reuters