Hamas on Tuesday called on Palestinians fleeing Syria to come to the Gaza Strip instead of risking their lives at sea while seeking asylum.
The call, which was made by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, came after the Libyan coast guard opened fire at a boat carrying 374 Palestinian refugees from Syria.
Initial reports had suggested that nearly half of the refugees that had drowned died after the boat sank off Maltese waters.
However, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry said that only 32 people died in the incident.
The ministry said that the victims were from various nationalities, and not only Palestinians.
Some of 212 people who were on board the boat have survived and are in Malta and Italy, it added.
According to the ministry, the Palestinians who were on the boat had fled from refugee camps in Syria or were living in Libya.
Addressing Palestinians on the first day of Id al-Adha, Haniyeh said, “We tell the Palestinian refugees in Syria: Don’t endanger your lives and those of your children. We are your brothers and your family. Despite the blockade, there’s room for you in the Gaza Strip. If you are seeking shelter, the Gaza Strip will provide you with sanctuary.”
The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said at least 200 Palestinians were aboard the boat, which left the Libyan port of Zuwara late Thursday.
The group said that 70 refugees survived the attack and are in Malta, while the rest remain unaccounted for.
The Hamas government called for an international investigation into the sinking and death of the Palestinian refugees.
The government expressed its deep sorrow and grief and condemned the shooting attack on the boat.