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Rare snowstorm blankets Holy Land, brings brief joy to war-weary Damascus

Darren Whiteside / Reuters

Snow covers the Dome of the Rock on the compound know to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on Jan. 10, 2013.

Abir Sultan / EPA

An Ultra Orthodox Jew wades through the snow next to the Old City walls in Jerusalem on Jan. 10, 2013. The region has been gripped by a cold wave accompanied by heavy snowfalls over the last few days.

Youssef Badawi / EPA

Children with their families play in the snow on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Jan. 10, 2013, after the region was hit by heavy snowfalls overnight. Syria has been gripped by a cold wave accompanied by heavy snowfalls for the second day, cutting off roads and bringing life to a standstill. The government has postponed the mid-year exams because of the blizzard that has blanketed all streets and hilltops.

The worst snowstorm in 20 years shut public transport, roads and schools in Jerusalem and along the northern Israeli region bordering on Lebanon on Thursday. 

Jerusalem was transformed into a winter wonderland after heavy overnight snowfall turned the Holy City and much of the region white, bringing hordes of excited children onto the streets.

Powerful winter storm brings snow, havoc to Mideast, leaving 8 dead

In neighboring Syria, the snowfall that covered Damascus in white on Wednesday sparked an overnight outbreak of playfulness among Syrians, who momentarily ignored their bloody civil war and forgot their affiliations as dissidents, loyalists and even soldiers.

"Last night, for the first time in months, I heard laughter instead of shelling. Even the security forces put down their guns and helped us make a snowman," Iman, a resident of the central Shaalan neighborhood, said by Skype on Thursday. 

-- Reuters, Agence France-Presse

 

Bernat Armangue / AP

Snow falls as an ultra-orthodox Jewish man prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on Jan. 10, 2013. Stormy weather conditions continued on Thursday with snow, torrential rains and strong winds across the region.

Majdi Mohammed / AP

Palestinians play in the snow next to a section of Israel's separation barrier in Qalandia, between Jerusalem and the West bank city of Ramallah, on Jan. 10, 2013.

Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images

A man takes pictures of the snow-covered Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the old city of Jerusalem on Jan. 10, 2013.

Avi Ohayon / Israeli Government Press Office via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoys the snow with his family on Jan. 10, 2013 in Jerusalem.

Bernat Armangue / AP

A man walks through tombs covered by snow on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem on Jan. 10, 2013.

Jim Hollander / EPA

Palestinian girls play in the snow on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem on Jan. 10, 2013.

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AFP - Getty Images

Ice and snow changes our environment, as winter engulfs our world.