'Alexa' brings joy and misery to Middle East
WHAT is being called the worst winter storm in decades is bringing both jubilation and misery to a wide swathe of the Middle East.
The powerful storm left Jerusalem covered in snow on Friday, forcing police to block access to and from the city as a cold snap drove some Israelis to seek treatment from emergency medics. Reports said the storm is the worst in 60 years.
Rare snow also fell in Cairo's suburbs and the port city of Alexandria, while a blanket of white covered St Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai.
In Cairo, where local news reports said the last recorded snowfall was more than 100 years ago, children in outlying districts capered in the streets, and adults marvelled at the sight, tweeting pictures of snow-dusted parks and squares.
In Syria's contested northern city of Aleppo, soldiers and rebels took a break from fighting as a thick layer of snow blanketed deserted streets and temperatures hovered around zero.
Snow also fell in Damascus, but was quickly washed away by the rain.
The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday.
The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already-grim existence of many of the more than two million Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland.
In Lebanon, snow fell in northern and eastern regions, where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are living, many of them in flimsy plastic tents.
Syrian refugees struggled to keep tents in place and were seen gathering sticks of wood from nearby fields to use for heating. Families - crammed into damp, muddy tents - struggled to keep warm.