Last updated: 20 February, 2015

Warnings after blizzards sweep across Middle East

Snow blanketed much of Israel, Jordan and Lebanon early on Friday, with many residents urged to stay in their homes because of blocked or icy roads.

People in Jerusalem woke up to around 25 centimetres of snow after the second major blizzard of winter swept across the hilltop Holy City.

In January, 10-15 centimetres fell, media reported.

Schools closed for the day on Friday and urban bus services were limited.

The two main highways into Jerusalem, which climb to around 795 metres (2,600 feet) above sea level, were closed in both directions for several hours but reopened at around midday, police said.

Earlier, few cars were seen on the icy streets except for emergency vehicles or those with four-wheel drive.

“There’s heavy snow falling in Jerusalem, about 25 centimetres (10 inches) so far and it will continue to fall throughout the day,” Israel Meteorological Service forecaster Rinat Rehamim told public radio.

The landmark Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound was frosted with snow and Palestinian children threw snowballs in its forecourt.

Snow also covered much of the occupied West Bank, and Palestinian authorities issued warnings advising people not to drive or even venture outside unless absolutely necessary, suggesting that people stay at home.

There was also rare snowfall in southern Israel’s Negev desert, the meteorological service said.

In December 2013, the heaviest fall in decades since a metre of snow fell on Jerusalem in 1920 blocked roads across Israel and the West Bank.

After the latest blizzard, the army has put tracked vehicles on standby to help civilians in the least accessible areas.

In neighbouring Jordan, many roads were blocked, including in the capital Amman.

Authorities broadcast warnings to people not to leave their homes.

Lebanon also saw heavy snowfall, with schools closed across the country and some mountain roads blocked.

“There was heavy hail in Beirut, and snow has fallen from 200 metres (656 feet) above sea level,” said Wissam Abu Hashfeh of Lebanon’s Meteorological Service.