A whole family has been killed in a house fire started, the authorities believe, by a candle. The blaze took place at dawn today, Thursday, in Al-Shejaeia neighbourhood to the east of Gaza City. Candles are used frequently by Palestinians because of the disruption to the supply caused by the lack of fuel to keep the main electricity generating plant operating in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Hazem Doheer, aged 32, his wife Samar Doheer, 30, and their four children aged between two months to 7 years were found dead in the scorched ruins of the building. Their remains were taken to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
Witnesses said that fire-fighters were on the scene quickly but the blaze was so fierce that they were unable to save the family, although they did manage to contain the flames so that they did not spread to neighbouring properties. The Palestinian government in Gaza issued a statement consoling relatives and neighbours of the family, calling the blaze a “massive humanitarian disaster”.
Blaming the Israeli-imposed siege of Gaza for creating the circumstances whereby the use of naked flames to provide light in heavily-populated buildings is now commonplace, government spokesman Ihab al-Ghoseen pointed out that the fire was one of a number of similar “disasters” which have occurred since 2006. Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas won the democratic election in that year. As a result, industrial and domestic fuel is in short supply in the beleaguered territory. The people of Gaza know that candles and kerosene lamps can be dangerous. However, they have little choice but to use them when the electricity supply is cut off, which can be for periods up to 16 hours a day.
The Palestinian government called for everyone involved in the siege on the Gaza Strip to lift it “immediately” in order to minimise the risk of such a “disastrous incident” happening again.