At least 19 Palestinians were killed and 85 injured when an explosive-packed car blew up during a rally organized by the militant group Hamas on Friday in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian interior ministry said.
Thousands of Hamas activists and supporters took part in an armed parade to celebrate the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last week after 38 years of military occupation.
Ismael Haneya, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told the crowds who were waving Hamas green flags that the Palestinians should continue their armed struggle in order to force Israel out of the rest of the occupied territories.
As soon as Haneya finished his speech, a convoy of cars and jeeps carrying Hamas militants started marching through the chanting crowds, and then a huge explosion suddenly occurred.
Hamas leaders and witnesses said that an Israeli pilotless aircraft fired missiles at Hamas cars, while Palestinian interior ministry said that first indications suggested the blast was caused by bombs and homemade rockets packed into one of the cars and an Israeli army spokesman denied any Israeli role in the explosion.
Following the explosion, dozens of ambulances rushed to the site, where remains of bodies and spots of blood were seen on the ground, while the wounded, most of them children, were moaning.
Palestinian medics at Kamal Odwan and al-Awda hospitals said that at least 19 Palestinians were killed and 85 others injured, many of them in serious conditions.
Tawfiq Abu Khousa, spokesman of the ministry of interior, said that the Palestinian security forces are investigating the circumstances of the explosion.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters that he saw the Israeli reconnaissance drone firing four missiles at a convoy of cars participating in the parade.
"Israel would pay a heavy price for this crime," said Abu Zuhri, vowing a revenge.
On Wednesday, leaders of 13 Palestinian factions, including Hamas, agreed with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to end the
armed parades in the Palestinian streets by Saturday.
The latest blast took place only hours after Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza Strip fired several Qassam rockets at Israel, causing no injuries or damage.
Israeli soldiers killed early Friday three Palestinian militants from Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, drawing strong condemnation from the Palestinian resistance group.