BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Shops and offices in cities across the West Bank were closed Friday after a major winter storm pummeled the region and left nearly half a meter of snow in some places.
Snowfall began late Thursday and continued into the early morning Friday, blanketing hilltops across the region with a thick layer of snow that shut streets and major thoroughfares.
Frigid rain continued to pummel the region Friday night, and was expected to continue into Saturday as temperatures slowly rise from the storm — named “Jenny” by meteorologists — as it continues south.
Emergency services said that as of the afternoon there had been 16 storm-related car accidents and that rescue services had been involved in at least 215 cases since the beginning of the storm. The majority of those cases involved individuals being brought to the hospital.
Snow plows roamed the streets of the West Bank’s major cities opening up roads, but the Ministry of Public Works and Housing said that in many areas the vast majority of roads were still shut.
The ministry said in a statement that in the Hebron region, 80 percent of internal roads were closed by the snow, while Israeli-controlled Route 60 was open but extremely difficult to navigate.
In Bethlehem, meanwhile, all major roads were open but the ministry asked residents to stay in their homes as the majority of roads remained in precarious or difficult condition.
In Ramallah, similar conditions prevailed, although the road east toward Silwad remained mostly closed, the ministry said.
In occupied East Jerusalem, the heavy snowfall had also shut down major roads. Due to the reported failure of the Israeli municipality to clear roads in Palestinian neighborhoods, locals in many places had ventured out to re-open streets.
At the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard, meanwhile, hundreds gathered to take part in a massive snow fight, taking advantage of the unusually cold weather and fresh white blanket covering the third-holiest site in Islam.
Snowfall also hit Palestinian communities inside Israel where it is rarely seen, including Nazareth in the Galilee, Abu Ghosh west of Jerusalem, and Beersheba and Bedouin communities in the Negev desert in the south.
Power even went off in the southern Israeli city of Arad as Israeli crews struggled to cope with the storm’s impacts on the country’s infrastructures. Several major highways, including Highway 1 and 443 to Jerusalem, were still closed shut as of Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, frigid rain and hail pounded Gaza and the Palestinian coast overnight and into Friday, without at least 1.8 million in the Strip struggling to survive amid the usual power cuts and limited access to fuel for generators.
Around 110,000 people were left homeless by Israel’s summer assault on the Strip that left around 2,200 dead as well, and tens of thousands of those are still being housed in substandard, unheated dwellings.