THE MIDDLE EAST

Israelis Raid Gaza, Detain 4

GAZA CITY -- About 50 Israeli tanks and armored vehicles backed by helicopter gunships raided the outskirts of Gaza City early today and arrested four men before swiftly pulling out, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

Two Palestinian policemen and a local resident were wounded during the raid, the third big incursion into Palestinian cities in successive days following an attack on a kibbutz in Israel on Sunday in which a Palestinian gunman killed five people.

The army arrested Yosef Meqdiad, an officer in the Palestinian security service, and three of his brothers, according to a relative.

The attack, the raids and sporadic violence have added to problems besetting a fresh U.S. peace mission that has been overshadowed by a stormy Israeli election campaign and the possibility of a U.S.-led war to disarm Iraq.

News Services

EUROPE

Firefighters Strike Across Britain

HARLOW, England -- Britain's firefighters walked off their jobs yesterday in their first nationwide strike in a quarter-century, demanding a 40 percent raise in salaries they say are barely enough to live on.

About 50,000 firefighters began a 48-hour strike. They threatened strikes in November and December if the government does not meet their terms.

Their place will be taken by military personnel operating antiquated "Green Goddess" fire trucks, no substitute for highly trained firefighters using the latest equipment.

"Make no mistake, someone will die -- but we will not be to blame; we have been forced into this," said Jim Jewell, a senior officer at the Harlow Fire Station in southeast England, running his gaze over a row of gleaming fire engines.

Most of the firefighters under Jewell's command have taken extra jobs, saying the base salary of $34,400 a year is inadequate, particularly in the expensive southeast.

Associated Press

Medical Exams Due for Milosevic

AMSTERDAM -- Slobodan Milosevic faces psychiatric tests this month as concern grows that his dogged refusal to appoint a defense lawyer is taking its toll on his health and disrupting his trial, judges said.

Judges at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague called for a psychiatrist and a cardiologist to report on the condition of the former Yugoslav president after his trial was halted for the fifth time in nine months because of his poor health.

Prosecutors have called on the court to force Milosevic to accept a defense lawyer to minimize further disruption of the trial. But a Milosevic legal aide said the former Yugoslav leader was adamant he would not appear in court if this happened.

Judges have ordered the medical tests to see when Milosevic, who has suffered from bouts of flu, exhaustion and high blood pressure since the trial started in February, would be fit to return to court.

Associated Press

Media Curbs Advance in Russia

MOSCOW -- Russian legislators overwhelmingly approved tough media curbs during anti-terrorist operations to give authorities greater control over reporting of crises such as last month's Moscow theater siege.

The amendments were approved 145 to 1 in the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and now go to President Vladimir Putin for signature.

The changes were passed on Nov. 1 by the State Duma, or lower house, days after the Moscow theater siege, in which 128 hostages and 41 Chechen guerrillas died.

The new rules bar dissemination of information seen as hampering anti-terrorist operations and endangering lives, as well as remarks judged as propaganda or justifying resistance to counter-terrorist measures.

They also would prevent the media from publishing information about technology, arms, ammunition and explosives used in anti-terrorist operations.

Reuters

Chechnya Prime Minister Named

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- The head of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration has named a former Moscow region deputy governor to be the republic's prime minister, a move some observers said underlines the Kremlin's mistrust of Chechens.

Mikhail Babich, 33, will replace Stanislav Ilyasov, who was promoted to the federal post of minister in charge of reconstruction in Chechnya.

The appointment came just days after President Vladimir Putin pledged to let Chechens solve their republic's problems. By sending a Russian to handle financial affairs in Chechnya, the Kremlin "openly refuses to trust [the Chechens] in deciding financial questions," said a commentary in the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

The administrative head of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, signed the decree on Babich's appointment, his spokesman Shamsail Saraliyev said. The prime minister will take office Friday, according to the Interfax news agency.

Associated Press

For THe record

A Nigerian woman condemned to stoning by an Islamic court for having sex outside marriage thanked beauty queens for boycotting Nigeria's Miss World pageant on her behalf but asked them to call off the boycott, saying nothing will happen to her "without God's permission."