Jabalia, Gaza As soon as he heard that a fire broke out in the house where his sister lived, Aya Abu Raya ran straight down the street, shouting, “My sister, my sister.”
When he arrived, he saw the flames burning the house where his sister and her relatives lived.
“I was screaming a lot. My sister and her children were gone. People around me tried to calm me down and told me that it will be okay.” Aya, 23, told Al Jazeera. “I tell them how will it be when you see these terrible flames?”
Her sister Areej, 36, died in the fire along with her sister’s husband and five children – four daughters and a son. Areej’s mother-in-law, Yosra Abu Raya, and father-in-law, Maher Abu Rayya, as well as their children and grandchildren also died in the fire.
Twenty-one people were killed when a fire ripped through a four-story building in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry said a preliminary investigation showed that a large amount of fuel had been stored at the site, contributing to the rapid spread of the fire that engulfed the building.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the fire.
“Areej is my only sister, and her children are like my children. I come to see him almost every day at home. We were planning to visit them today because her husband, Maher, came home from a trip a few days ago.” Aya said.
“What happened is a terrible tragedy by all standards. No one could save them. Life in Gaza is oppression upon oppression,” he added.
The bodies of the 21 victims were buried in a mass funeral following Friday prayers.
On Friday, the people of the community where the fire happened were shocked, and the authorities announced their condolences.
In the house where the women were in the morning, Yosra Abu Raya’s sister, Khitam Abu Raya, 56, was shocked by the death of many members of her family.
“I can’t put into words how we felt last night.” said the woman who could not speak. “I lost my dearest brother, his wife, sons and daughters, and their children, including my seven-year-old granddaughter, Dima.”
He said: “It is as if we were in Gaza when we were suffering a lot.
Outside the burned house, many neighbors gathered from early Friday morning until late at night.
Ahmed Ezzedine, 30, was one of the first to arrive at the scene when the fire broke out.
“I was living with my family, until I heard the sound of screaming and pleading in my house. I immediately went out of the house to see what happened, and I found a child and a woman screaming in the upstairs room of our neighbors’ house, asking for help, in the flames.”
It was an experience we will never forget. The child and the woman disappeared a few minutes after the fire,” he said and other neighbors tried hard to put out the fire with fire extinguishers.
Ezzedine said that, in the end, security forces arrived, but the fire continued for an hour and a half.
“If this fire were in a developed country, it would have been controlled in a few minutes,” he said. “Unfortunately, capacity in Gaza is shrinking in both the labor and government sectors, and the result is that we are losing more victims to violence here.”
Saqr Ali, 40, who lives in the house next to the fire, said the tragedy shows that “Gaza has turned into a graveyard for its residents and an unsettled place.”
“I wasn’t at home when the fire started, as I was out with my family for the weekend, but it didn’t happen until I received a call that the house of the Abu Raya family, which is next to my house, was on fire,” said Ali. “I immediately returned home. mine.”
Civil Defense personnel climbed onto the roof of Ali’s house, in an attempt to enter the burning building, but were unsuccessful due to the lack of ladders and necessary equipment.
“Whatever the reasons, the brutality of the people living here forces them to do things like save oil and gas because of the problems of closures and power outages.”
“It is true that this incident has nothing to do with politics, but it is a reflection and the result of many years of imprisoning us,” said Ali.