At least 19 Palestinians were killed and some 80 more were injured Friday from an explosion that occurred during a Hamas rally at the Jabalya refugee camp in north Gaza.
While the Palestinian Interior Ministry has reported that 19 people died in the blast, hospitals said that at least 10 people were killed. Some of those killed were Hamas members, and the rest were citizens, among them two children, who took part in the rally.
Blast during Hamas rally (Photo: AP)
The Palestinian Interior ad National Security Ministry said that according to eyewitness accounts the blast occurred inside a vehicle carrying Qassam rockets and was not the result of IDF fire.
A videotape of the rally showed a jeep blowing up, followed by images of people running for safety. Hundreds of Palestinians crowded outside local hospitals, chanted anti-Israel slogans and called on the al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades to avenge the blood of those who were killed in the explosion.
Witnesses said the first explosion triggered several other blasts in nearby vehicles that were also carrying rockets and ammunition.
Earlier Hamas Representative in Lebanon Osama Hamdan said that according to information gathered by the organization the explosion in Gaza resulted from IDF helicopter fire that was aimed at Ahmed Randur, commander of the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades in north Gaza.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Hamdan added that Randur has been injured but his condition is not known.
The IDF has denied any involvement in the incident.
Fatah responds to Hamas show of force
A short time before the rally began Palestinian sources said an IDF Apache helicopter was hovering over Gaza, apparently due to the firing of rockets toward Israel by Islamic Jihad terrorists.
During a press conference held by Hamas in Gaza, members presented an electronic chip they claimed was part of a missile fired by the IDF and was found in the body of one of the Palestinians killed in the blast.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that he personally saw four missiles fires from an Apache helicopter in the rally’s direction.
A short while later IDF Spokesperson’s Office official Eitan Sarusi went on the air and said the IDF had nothing to do with the incident, adding that whatever exploded during the rally may have been smuggled into Gaza this week.
Abu Zuhri refused to respond to Sarusi’s remarks, saying, “We will not permit a representative of the Zionist enemy to talk on the air. He said he was surprised that Al-Jazeera is permitting “such a criminal” to speak.
During the broadcast a Palestinian minister supported Hamas’ position and also refused to address Sarusi’s statement, saying Sarusi was trying to bring about civil war between the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian factions have heeded Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ call and announced they would refrain from organizing military processions as of this Sunday.
About two weeks ago five Palestinians were killed during an explosion in a Hamas weapons cache, and calls to ban the carrying of arms on streets and in population centers are rising.
It is not e clear how Friday’s incident will affect the military rally of Fatah’s armed groups, scheduled for Saturday. The armed groups, including the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, initiated the rally amid Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s recent shows of force and as a celebration of the IDF’s recent withdrawal from Gaza.