Relatives of those killed in Gaza house fire blame authorities


The charred walls and burnt furniture is all that remains of a family home in Gaza City.

The fire which started in the early hours of Thursday morning claimed six lives, four of them were children, the youngest was two months old.

Mahmoud Dhair lost his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the blaze. He said his son, a civil servant, couldn’t afford to pay his electricity bill.

Relatives said the fire was caused by candles. But government officials said it was started by an electric heater.

Dhair said the candles were lit during a power cut, and blamed the authorities for not doing more to tackle the electricity problems in the coastal enclave.

“The reason is the electricity [company] because they cut the electricity. The electricity company [employees] came with the police and cut the electricity. They also threw the cable away, then happened what happened here, this great tragedy,” he said.

Major power blackouts have plagued the Gaza Strip, disrupting the lives of many of its 1.7 million inhabitants, and residents say the Hamas government should do more to tackle the crisis.

Khalil Abu Shamala, a director of a human rights group in Gaza said the authorities were quick to blame the families rather than take responsibility.

‘‘This is not the first problem of its kind, and it won’t be the last if the situation does not change. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear the power authority, or the electricity companies or the government saying they are responsible for what has happened, they always make excuses and hold the families responsible, as if the family burnt itself,’’ he said.

The funeral of those killed in the blaze took place on Thursday, and mourners directed their anger at the Gaza Electricity Company Office, pelting it with stones.

The coastal enclave’s precarious energy supply is bad at the best of times, with a rickety infrastructure system badly degraded during fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past five years.

Israel maintains a blockade by land, air and sea on Gaza to prevent weapons and material with potential military use from reaching Hamas, which is committed to destroying the Jewish state.