Jan 7, 2015 4:22 AM

Snow falls in Middle East as strong winter storm strikes

The Associated Press

ANJAR, Lebanon (AP) Snow fell Wednesday across the Middle East as a powerful winter storm swept through the region, forcing Syrians who have fled their country's civil war to huddle for warmth in refugee camps.

The storm dumped rain and hail on Lebanon's coast and heavy snows in the mountains and central Bekaa Valley, where gas stations, banks, schools and most shops closed.

While the storm disrupted life for everyone, it proved particularly trying for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who live in tents and makeshift shelters in the Bekaa.

Near the town of Anjar, men used brooms and sticks to try to clear the heavy snow from the tops of refugee tents, fearing the weight might cause the shelters to collapse. Inside the tents, adults could be seen huddling around the wood burning stoves to try to keep warm.

Elsewhere, Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip declared a state of emergency over the storm. An 8-month-old Palestinian infant in the Tulkarem refugee camp killed in a fire caused by a heating stove, Palestinian civil defense ministry spokesman Loae Bani Odeh said.

Snow accumulated in the Golan Heights and northern Israel. Schools across Jerusalem closed ahead of a forecast warning of 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snowfall.

In Syria, snow blanketed Qassioun Mountain, which overlooks Damascus. The snowfall also brought traffic to a near standstill in the capital, Damascus, and prompted the Education Ministry to shutter school and universities for two days.

Heavy fogs also blanketed parts of Pakistan on Wednesday morning. Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority said officials temporarily closed Islamabad's Benazir Bhutto International Airport due to the weather, diverting incoming flights to Lahore.


Associated Press writers contributing to this report include Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank; Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem; Ryan Lucas in Beirut; Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria; Merrit Kennedy in Cairo and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad.


Follow Hussein Malla on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hmalla72 .


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