Gazans mourn 21 family members who died in massive home fire

Gazans mourn 21 family members who died in massive home fire
Palestinians in Gaza were left in shock after a massive fire killed 21 members of the Abu Raya family in an apartment in the Jabalia refugee camp.
3 min read
18 November, 2022

Thousands of Gazans attended a mass funeral on Friday after 21 family members were killed in a huge fire at their home in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

Amid shock and grief, the mourners carried the bodies of the victims, which were covered with Palestinian flags, and chanted slogans against the hardship and suffering that the people of the besieged Gaza Strip have been living through for over a decade and a half.

Raising Palestinian flags and pictures of the victims, the mourners buried the dead in adjacent graves in the Beit Lahia cemetery.

On Thursday evening, the Hamas-run local council in Gaza said that 21 members of the Abu Raya family, including twelve children, were killed during a blaze that erupted on the third floor of their three-story building.

In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the Hamas-run Civil Defence said the blaze was caused by gasoline stored in the building.

It was not immediately clear how the gasoline ignited, but the Civil Defence service said an investigation was underway.

Salah Abu Laila, director of the Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahia town, told TNA that “medical teams transferred 21 charred bodies to the hospital,” adding that “no one from the family survived the heartbreaking accident.”

Mourning prevailed in Palestinian cities with shops and businesses closed. Flags were flown at half mast, and mosques broadcast verses from the Qur'an starting in the early morning.

The Abu Raya family disaster was one of the deadliest incidents in the besieged territory since 2020 when a fire broke out in a central market of Al-Nusseirat refugee camp.

That fire killed at least 50 people, including women and children, and dozens were wounded. In addition, dozens of shops, commercial stands, and cars were damaged. Losses were estimated at $4 million.

Authorities at the time said that the fire was set off by a leak from gas cylinders that were stored in large quantities in a bakery.

“It seems that the incidents were similar, but the reality said they are completely different,” Abu Ahmed Abu Raya, the head of the Abu Raya family told TNA, adding that “the reasons for our catastrophe are still unknown.”

 "None of my cousin’s family survived to tell us what was happened to them,” he said. "We believe in God and will be patient with our calamity.”

The incident divided locals, with some blaming the Israeli blockade, and others saying Hamas bore responsibility for allegedly allowing officials to stockpile gasoline and fuel in residential buildings.

Mohammed Ahmed, a local eyewitness, told TNA that he rushed to the street to find out what was going on when he heard loud screaming.

“From time to time, we witness such deadly incidents without any preventive measures adopted by the local authorities or even from the population,” he complained, stressing that “even though Israel bore a part of the responsibility, the [Hamas] government does the same thing.”

Residents of Gaza urged the Hamas government to publicise the results of its investigation without delay.

Since Israel imposed its siege on the territory when Hamas took over in 2007, Gaza has faced a severe energy crisis.

People often store cooking gas, diesel, and gasoline in homes in preparation for winter. House fires have previously been caused by candles and gas leaks.