Heavy snowfall hits Syria, Lebanon, Israel in winter storm
Large parts of Syria were covered, including the capital Damascus which is witnessing this winter's first snowfall. Snow was as high as 15 cm (6 inches) in the mountains of Suweida province, according to the official state news agency SANA.
Roads in some provinces were blocked. In the central province of Hama, bulldozers shovelled snow to open roads while vehicles skidded on ice, further causing traffic disruption.
The University of Damascus called off mid-term exams scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in all its branches around Syria because of the extreme weather conditions. The country’s ports remained open.
In the opposition-held northwestern Syria, civil defence teams have been building dirt mounds since Tuesday around displaced persons' camps to prevent the rain from flooding the crowded areas. Nearly 3 million displaced people live in northwestern Syria, mostly in tents and temporary shelters. Heavy rainfall last month damaged over 190 displacement sites, destroying and damaging over 10,000 tents.
In neighbouring Lebanon, Storm Joyce hit late Tuesday with gale force winds registering between 85 km/h (52 miles/h) and 100 km/h (62 miles/h). The storm is expected to get stronger Thursday.
Breaking a warm spell, the storm brought heavy rainfall, a sharp drop in temperatures and the heaviest snow fall in Lebanon this year. Snow is expected to cover areas of altitudes as low as 400 meters high, according to the Meteorological department. Nearly a dozen roads in eastern and northern Lebanon were closed to traffic because of the snow.
The Israeli Meteorological Service forecast heavy thunderstorms and cold temperatures across much of the country, with snowfall at higher altitudes expected later on Wednesday, including in Jerusalem. Heavy snowfall covered the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the border with Syria.