Nasser Kan’ani, in an Arabic-language post on his Twitter account on Friday, extended his deepest and sincere condolences to “dear Palestine and its brotherly people and to the families of the martyrs” over the tragic incident.
He wished a quick recovery for those injured in the blaze, asking God Almighty to bestow patience and solace to the families of victims.
According to local sources, it took Palestinian firefighters more than an hour to bring under control the massive flames, which had swept through the top floor of a four-story residential building.
Witnesses said they could hear people trapped inside screaming, but could not help because of the intensity of the fire.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that several children were among the dead.
The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the blaze.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry said an initial investigation revealed that large amounts of gasoline had been stored at the site, fueling the fire that quickly spread and engulfed the building.
Following the tragic incident, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a day of national mourning on Friday to honor the victims of the tragic fire incident, during which flags were flown at half-mast at all official institutions.
He described the blaze as a national catastrophe and ordered all relevant authorities to utilize all available means to help the families of the victims and alleviate their suffering.
Gaza has been under the Israeli siege since June 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave.
The siege has inflicted severe hardship on residents. The poverty rate among Gaza’s population has reached 53 percent, while “extreme poverty” stands at 33.8 percent, according to statistics by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
About 68 percent of families do not have enough to eat, while 80 percent of Gazans are dependent on aid. The area’s unemployment rate also stands at 45.1 percent, according to PCBS.
Israel has also launched three major wars on Gaza since 2008.
In the latest bombardment campaign, at least 260 Palestinians, including over 60 children, were killed in a time span of 11 days that began on May 10. The Gaza-based resistance movements retaliated heavily and took the Tel Aviv regime by surprise.