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November 19, 2008

In a bid to boost the morale and discipline of its troops, the commanding general of Congo's Army was fired Monday night and replaced by the head of military intelligence. Soldiers in North Kivu Province have been accused of cowardice for refusing to fight against Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces and then looting and raping women as they abandon their posts. A spokesman for Nkunda told the BBC that his fighters were withdrawing from two fronts in the eastern sector to open corridors for humanitarian aid to reach tens of thousands of noncombatants who've fled the fighting.

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Palestinian militants fired on Israeli tanks and bulldozers that had crossed into the southern Gaza Strip Tuesday as both sides escalated the violence that has eroded their fragile cease-fire. Over the protests of international aid organizations, Israel also resealed border crossings into Gaza "because of ongoing rocket fire," a military spokesman said. The incursion was aimed at "uncovering explosive devices near the border fence," the military said. No new casualties on either side were reported.

A US-born graduate student has been freed on bail from solitary confinement in an Iranian prison, her adviser confirmed Tuesday. "I believe there are no obstacles if she wants to leave the country," a Justice Ministry spokesman said after Esha Momeni's parents surrendered the deed to their home in return for her freedom. Momeni , who attends California State University-Northridge, was arrested Oct. 15 for a traffic violation in Tehran. Prosecutors reportedly may still charge her with making propaganda against the state and require her to return for trial. She was conducting research for a film project on Iran's women's movement.