Signaling an escalation of Israel's Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis today to be ready for a "prolonged" war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighborhoods to leave their homes and head immediately for Gaza City. The warnings came on a day of heavy Hamas-Israeli fighting in which nine children were killed by a strike on a Gaza park where they were playing, according to Palestinian health officials—a tragedy that each side blamed on the other.
Israeli tanks also resumed heavy shelling in border areas of Gaza, killing five people, including three children and a 70-year-old woman, and wounding 50 in the town of Jebaliya, which was among the areas warned to evacuate, the Red Crescent said. Later today, Israeli forces fired a large numbers of flares over Gaza City, turning the night sky a bright orange. The latest bloodshed came despite mounting international calls for a cease-fire and followed failed attempts by both sides to agree to even a lull in fighting of several hours for the start of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid el-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan.