A massive new mission to crush the insurgency in Iraq began before dawn Sunday with simultaneous raids over an area from north of Baghdad to the border with Iran. It came as two more Americans were hurt and an Iraqi civilian died in an attack on a military convoy approaching the Baghdad airport. Operation Desert Sidewinder also is aimed at capturing fugitive senior members of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime.

Despite the presence of US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Israel's government immediately rejected the announcement of a unilateral three-month truce by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Both said they'd suspend their 33-month campaign of violence if Israel halted targeted assassinations of wanted militants, the siege of Yasser Arafat, and incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, and took other reciprocal steps. Israel's foreign minister said the move only "maintains the infrastructure of terror."

Eight times the number of arrests announced previously were acknowledged by authorities in Iran as a result of recent antigovernment protests. A state-owned newspaper quoted the government's prosecutor-general as saying more than 4,000 demonstrators were in custody. Meanwhile, would-be reformist members of parliament began a sit-in, claiming that at least 30 more anti- government protesters had gone missing in the capital, Tehran, Saturday and that "unannounced arrests" of others were taking place in provincial cities.

American troops were being sought for an international peacekeeping force in Liberia, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned of "a humanitarian tragedy" despite the failure of rebel forces to seize the capital, Monrovia. Almost constant fighting since the rebels and President Charles Taylor's government signed a truce June 17 has killed at least 700 people.

Hopes for peace in war-torn Congo rose after President Joseph Kabila and two rebel groups agreed on formation of a unified Army. A special UN envoy said the deal, in which senior command posts would be divided, also paved the way for a national unity government to be formed "very soon," although he cited no specific date. A joint military was part of an accord signed by the two sides in April, but disputes over who would control which key posts has held up implementation. An estimated 3 million people have been killed in Congo's almost five-year civil war or have died from related circumstances.

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