December 13, 2013 – CAIRO — Snow coated domes and minarets Friday as a record Middle East storm compounded the suffering of Syrian refugees, sent the Israeli army scrambling to dig out stranded motorists and gave Egyptians a rare glimpse of snow in their capital. Nearly three feet of snow closed roads in and out of Jerusalem, which is set in high hills, and thousands in and around the city were left without power. Israeli soldiers and police rescued hundreds trapped in their cars by snow and ice. In the West Bank, the branches of olive trees groaned under the weight of snow. In Cairo, where local news reports said the last recorded snowfall was more than 100 years ago, children in outlying districts capered in white-covered streets, and adults marveled at the sight, tweeting pictures of snow-dusted parks and squares. In other parts of the city, rain and hail rocketed down. On social media, some joked that the snowfall was the mystical work of Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, the military strongman who is the focus of something of a cult of personality among his followers. Sisi led the coup five months ago against the highly unpopular but democratically elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Storm-driven waves lashed Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, and fishermen in the ancient port city of Alexandria were warned by authorities against putting out to sea. In the Sinai Peninsula, snow fell on Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine’s monastery at its foot. Sleet washed the dusty fronds of desert palm trees.
The inclement weather worsened the situation for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, where many live in makeshift camps, abandoned buildings and other temporary sites lacking heat and protection from the elements. In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, many refugees were digging out snow from their provisional shelters amid subfreezing conditions. The situation is likely worse for multitudes of displaced people inside rebel-held and contested areas of Syria, where clashes and blockades by both sides in the country’s civil war have severely hampered delivery of aid. In Israel, where the storm was described as the heaviest December snowfall since 1953, thick clouds temporarily closed Ben-Gurion International Airport, causing the diversion of two international flights to Cyprus. Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, likened the storm to a snow tsunami. –LA Times
Rare, historic snowstorm paralyzes Jerusalem: Snow continues to fall across Israel Friday morning, reaching new regions of the country and causing major power outages and road closures. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat released a statement saying “we are battling a storm of rare ferocity.” The capital has over 37 centimeters (15 inches) of snow, with deeper snowfall in other areas. A weather forecaster on public radio described the storm as “historic,” as Jerusalem temperatures already dropped to 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit), and are expected to drop below freezing. Snow is anticipated to continue falling through Saturday. The views in Jerusalem are spectacular, as the hills of the city turn white and the rooftops in older neighborhoods wear a white contrast to the Jerusalem stone. A power outage has affected more than half of Jerusalem, although some areas are reporting a return of electricity. In Kiryat Moshe, Merkaz Harav Yeshiva opened its dormitory and dining room to stranded families who reached the entrance of the city, where the yeshiva is located, but could not get to their destination. Many more drivers were stuck on the roads in the city overnight, without food and water, after attempting to reach the city to see the snow.
The Jerusalem municipality is continuing with the rescue operations that began Thursday night and have so far saved over 2,000 people. The IDF and the Border Police are assisting in the operation. Drivers who have been rescued have been taken to the Binyanei HaUma (International Convention Center), a community center in Mevaseret Zion and the Ofer Camp on Highway 443. The Israeli police have released a particularly strong warning to drivers in affected areas against going out in blizzard conditions. Police have warned residents across the country to avoid leaving their homes for any reason during the snowfall. Judea and Central Samaria villages are also receiving more snow – some for the first time in over ten years – including in Ariel, Nofim, Yakir, and Barkan. –Israel National News