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Snowstorm hitting northern Israel also blankets Syria, Lebanon

Snow blankets parts of Syria, Lebanon and Israel, blocking roads, disrupting traffic and postponing exams at some universities.

Large parts of Syria were covered, including the capital Damascus which is witnessing this winter’s first snowfall. Snow was as high as 15 centimeters (6 inches) in the mountains of Sweida province, according to the official state news agency SANA.

Roads in some provinces are blocked. In the central province of Hama, bulldozers shoveled snow to open roads while vehicles skidded on ice, further causing traffic disruption.

The University of Damascus calls off midterm exams scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in all its branches around Syria because of the extreme weather conditions. The country’s ports remain open.

View of the Snow in the Golan Heights, Northern Israel, February 17, 2021. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

In the opposition-held northwestern Syria, civil defense 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 neighboring Lebanon, Storm Joyce hit late Tuesday with gale force winds registering between 85 kilometers per hour (52 mph) and 100 kph (62 mph). The storm is expected to get stronger Thursday.

Breaking a warm spell, the storm brings heavy rainfall, a sharp drop in temperatures and the heaviest snowfall 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 today, including in Jerusalem. Heavy snowfall covers the Golan Heights near the border with Syria.

Israeli soldiers play in the snow in the Golan Heights, northern Israel, February 17, 2021. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)
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