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Palestinian officials say 21 dead in Gaza fire

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A fire that broke out in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening killed at least 21 people, the area’s Hamas rulers said, in one of the deadliest incidents in recent years outside of violence sparked by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. .

The fire broke out on the third floor of a three-story building in the overcrowded Jabaliya refugee camp, according to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The civil defense in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, attributed the cause of the fire to gasoline stored in the building. It was not immediately clear how the gasoline ignited. Officials said an investigation was underway.

Flames were seen pouring out of the windows of the burning floor as hundreds of people gathered in the street outside, waiting for fire trucks and ambulances.

Gaza, ruled by Hamas and under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, is facing a serious energy crisis. People often store cooking gas, diesel and gasoline in homes in preparation for winter. Home fires have previously been caused by candles and gas leaks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent his condolences to the families of the dead and declared Friday a day of mourning.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian Authority official, called on Israel to open the Gaza border crossing to allow for the evacuation of the wounded who require advanced medical care to Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

COGAT, the Israeli body that controls the Erez transition with the Gaza Strip, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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