At least 21 Palestinians were killed in a fire that erupted Thursday night in a residential area of the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and Israeli media reported.
Palestinian Authority-controlled WAFA reported that "scores" of casualties were evacuated from the burning building to a nearby hospital, with the number of casualties likely to increase. Seven children were reported to have died in the fire, according to Israeli reports.
Footage circulated on social media and witnesses said the whole residential building caught fire in a refugee camp in the strip's North, 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.
According to preliminary reports, the building which caught fire stored large amounts of gasoline that potentially ignited, causing the massive flames.
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed sorrow on behalf of Israel for the deadly Gaza fire and stated that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) offered humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian leadership in the evacuation of hurt civilians.
"Israel will be right to help the residents of Gaza who were harmed, in order to save lives," Gantz wrote on Twitter.
מדינת ישראל ומערכת הביטחון מביעים צער על האסון הכבד בעזה. מתאם פעולות הממשלה בשטחים העביר הצעה לסייע בפינוי הומניטארי של נפגעים לבתי החולים. ישראל תהיה נכונה לסייע לתושבי עזה שנפגעו בהיבט הרפואי כדי להציל חיי אדם.— בני גנץ - Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) November 17, 2022
PA's Mahmoud Abbas declares day of mourning
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a day of mourning as firefighters continued efforts to control the rising flames. In a speech, Abbas described the fire as a "national catastrophe," ordering all relevant authorities help families of the victims, WAFA reported.
Jabalya is one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
Reuters contributed to this report. This is a developing story.