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Weather

Middle East battles winter storm

Rain, hail and snow have covered the Middle East, causing several deaths and chaotic travel conditions. Hundreds of thousands of already suffering Syrian refugees must now protect themselves from the cold.

A bird flies over a snow-covered Dome of the Rock on the compound know to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City January 10, 2013. The worst snowstorm in 20 years shut public transport, roads and schools in Jerusalem on Thursday and along the northern Israeli region bordering on Lebanon. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (JERUSALEM - Tags: ENVIRONMENT RELIGION ANIMALS)

Nahost Schnee Jerusalem

Residents across the Middle East awoke on Thursday to the damage left behind by four days of wintry conditions and the promise of more to come before the weekend. The storm - the wettest in 20 years and the most severe in nearly 10 - had been affecting countries as far south as Egypt and as far north as Turkey, dumping more rain in a matter of days on some areas than had been projected for the entire winter.

Northern Israel was dealing with power outages and flooding, which had damaged the main highway leading to the south. Meanwhile, Jerusalem was anticipating more snow to cover its ancient streets on Thursday. Schools remained closed across Israeli territories due to snow.

Video: Jerusalem covered in snow

But while flooding and freezing conditions had left their mark on Israel, neighboring countries in the region, equally as unaccustomed to the unusually cold conditions, had been experiencing additional difficulties aggravated by an ill-equipped infrastructure.

"The Palestinian infrastructure is deeply flawed and unable to handle weather like this," the head of medical relief in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Ghassan Hamdan, told the news agency AFP, after flooding had caused widespread damage.

Two West Bank women had been reported dead on Wednesday, after flood waters swept their car away. There were also reports of storm-related deaths in Lebanon.

In Egypt, the search continued for 10 fishermen whose boat had been reported missing. The country had closed many ports throughout the week, including in Alexandria.

Winter hits Syrians the hardest

Syrian refugees across the region were dealt the hardest blow, amid the flood waters, reports of winds gusting up to 124 kilometers per hour (77 miles per hour) along the eastern Mediterranean coast and surprise snowfall in many of the countries.

Camps sheltering Syrian refugees across the borders in Lebanon and Jordan fought against rising waters and falling snow to relocate thousands who couldn't remain outdoors in canvas tents.

In Syria, fighting showed no signs of abating in the capital Damascus, despite the blanket of snow covering the city. The displaced civilian population struggled with fuel shortages and power cuts that have become the norm in the war-torn country.

Abu Othman, an opposition activist described a grim scene of cold and starvation to the AFP news agency.

"Everyone is freezing, there is nothing to heat ourselves with. There is a growing food problem because all the rain and now snow has made road conditions very dangerous," he said adding that it was dangerously cold for those living in makeshift accomodation.

"Few people have anything like fuel for heating, and many just feel lucky to have blankets."

kms/rg (AFP, KNA, Reuters, dpa)

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