Snow 'blessing' for Middle East
Jerusalem has been cut off by snow
A snow storm has caused havoc in the Middle East, forcing the closure of major roads and schools.
Israel, Lebanon and Jordan were blanketed with snow on Tuesday, with heavier falls expected on Wednesday.
In Syria, six people are reported to have died when their house collapsed in heavy rain.
Despite the difficulties, the snowfall has been welcomed as a light distraction to more serious problems in the region.
Main routes from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and Beirut to Damascus were closed by the bad weather and temperatures in Jordan plunged below freezing.
Jordanian education minister Khaled Tuqan told state radio that schools and universities in the capital, Amman, and most northern governorates would
stay closed until further notice.
But he described the snowfall as a "blessing" for his largely desert country, which ranks among the world's 10 poorest in water resources.
Jerusalem was also paralysed by heavy snow storms, with more than 20 centimetres (eight inches) cutting the hilltop Holy City off from the rest of the
It's a moment of relief for all of us
In a region where politics, death, the 29-month-old intifada, or uprising for Palestinian independence, and the Iraq crisis dominate people's
everyday lives, the weather was top of the news agenda for many in the region.
The storm forced the closure of dozens of Israeli gas mask distribution centres where people have been queuing up to get new filters for their masks,
in preparation for a possible missile attack by Iraq.
One Israeli woman, Avital, built a snowman on a traffic island in Jerusalem.
"It's a moment of relief for all of us," she said.
In Bethlehem in the West Bank, the snow-capped Church of the Nativity was more like a scene from a Christmas card.
Hana Hania, 25, who lives opposite the church, said: "It is making us happy."