At least 21 dead after devastating fire at refugee camp

Palestine: Israel bombs Gaza Strip

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Officials from Gaza declared on Thursday that at least 21 people were killed and several injured following a fire at a residential building. The health and civil emergency officials said that the building in the heavily populated Jabalia refugee camp was the venue for a party for a number of the residents.

The blaze took firefighters over an hour to control after the fire ripped through the top floor of the four-storey building.

Witnesses reported hearing screams from the people trapped inside but the strength of the fire meant they were left helpless.

At least seven children were among the dead which was confirmed by the head of the Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia.

Saleh Abu Laila told AFP that the bodies of the seven children had arrived at the hospital following the fire.

Emergency services took a number of injured people to hospitals in the local area and Israel permitted those who needed emergency medical treatment into the region despite its blockade with Egypt against Gaza.

The Erez crossing is usually closed throughout the night, however, the Palestineian Authority encouraged Israel to allow them through for severe cases to treat people outside the strip.

The secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation announced the details in a statement.

Hussein Al-Sheikh said that the patients in a critical condition had to be transported “outside of the Gaza Strip if necessary”.

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

In response, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz expressed sympathy for the “serious disaster” and permitted his staff to help “humanitarian evacuations of the injured to Israeli hospitals”.

According to the Interior Ministry of Gaza, a primary investigation has revealed that there was a large store of petrol at the residence which fuelled the fire which consumed the building.

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As the winter begins to set in, a number of residents use petrol and coal to burn for heat due to the poverty in the area and poor electricity supply.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the fire was a national tragedy and announced a day of mourning on Friday where flags will be respectfully flown at half-mast.

The families of the victims have been offered aid by the President in order to “ease their suffering”, a spokesman said.

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