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Gaza: At least 21 people killed, several injured in building fire

Social media footage shows whole residential building caught fire in the Jabalia refugee camp
Footage circulating on social media shows a whole residential building caught fire in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, on 17 November 2022 (Twitter)

At least 21 people were killed and several others injured when a fire broke out in a building in Gaza where residents attended a party, health and civil emergency officials said on Thursday.

Footage circulating on social media and witnesses said the whole residential building caught fire in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, sending flames and smoke from the site.

Witnesses said they could hear screaming but they could not reach the victims to offer help because of the intensity of the fire.

Jabalia, with a population of 35,000 people, is the largest of eight refugee camps in Gaza, which is home to two million people and one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Gaza’s interior ministry said an initial investigation revealed that large amounts of gasoline had been stored at the site, fuelling the blaze that quickly engulfed the building.

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 to transport serious cases outside of the enclave if necessary.

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

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2006, after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. Critics say the siege amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave's two million residents.

Israel prevents the importing of materials and equipment into Gaza and has imposed strict restrictions on exports, leading to a state of "paralysis" in several sectors of Gaza's economy.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Israeli fighter jets targeted what the Israeli army claimed was a rocket manufacturing site in Gaza, in the first such bombing since Israel's offensive against the besieged enclave in August.

So far in 2022, 135 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank, according to data collected by MEE based on UN figures, the Palestinian health ministry, and MEE's reporting. More than 29 of them were children.

In the same period, at least 22 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, five of them shot dead in the West Bank.

It has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank on a monthly average since 2005, according to the United Nations.

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