Dozens of Gazans are suspected to be among 500 migrants feared dead in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean last week, a Palestinian official said on Tuesday.
The vessel, which set off from Egypt on September 6 bound for Europe, sank on Wednesday in what two Palestinian survivors said was a deliberate wrecking by people traffickers.
"We have information that 15 (Palestinians) drowned and dozens more are missing after trying to emigrate to Italy," said Fayez Abu Eita, a Gaza spokesman for president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party.
"The severe living and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians are forcing people to emigrate," Abu Eita told AFP.
Among the missing from Gaza, where a July-August war with Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, were 15 members of a single family, a relative said.
"Fifteen people from the Masri family, including two brothers, a woman and two of her children, left to emigrate to a European country through a broker, and got on a boat from Alexandria headed for Italy.
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"We've no news of them, whether they've drowned or survived," said the relative, who asked to remain anonymous.
Two Palestinian survivors plucked from the water by a freighter on Thursday told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that around 500 passengers had been on the stricken vessel.
The passengers, who also included Egyptians, Sudanese and Syrians, were forced to change boats several times during the crossing towards Europe, they said.
The Palestinian embassy in Athens said most of the Palestinian migrants were from the impoverished and war-battered coastal Gaza Strip.
When they refused to switch to a boat they feared was too small to hold them, traffickers on a separate boat rammed their vessel until it capsized.
The IOM described it as the "worst shipwreck in years," saying that if the Palestinians' story was true, it would amount to "mass murder".