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SHAKE AND BLOW
Stormy weather, heavy rains lash Israel, Palestinians
by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) Jan 7, 2013


Baby missing as floods sweep Lebanon
Beirut (AFP) Jan 7, 2013 - A baby was swept away in Lebanon on Monday as stormy weather sparked widespread flooding, prompting chaos on the roads and a nationwide school closure for the next two days.

The six-month-old boy was still missing after a flash flood tore through a bedouin encampment in the centre of the country, also taking with it tents, seven cows and more than 200 goats, the state NNA news agency reported.

Two men were killed in traffic accidents as the torrential rainfall caused treacherous road conditions nationwide.

In the south, there were massive tailbacks after several rivers burst their banks cutting highways. In the Sidon area, police were reduced to patrolling by jet-ski.

A met office official at Beirut airport said the storm would continue until Wednesday and that lower temperatures would result in snowfall in the mountains as low as 300 metres (1,000 feet).

"Every five years or so, a storm like this strikes Lebanon from Russia," he told AFP.

The Russian origin of the weather system was the butt of black jokes on social networks in a country where Moscow's support for President Bashar al-Assad's regime in neighbouring Syria is deeply controversial.

"The fate of Lebanon and Syria is always intertwined," one said. "Syria gets Russian missiles and Lebanon gets Russia's weather."

Stormy weather, including high winds and heavy rainfall, lashed Israel and the Palestinian territories on Monday, downing powerlines and trees and causing several injuries.

"The storms injured six people, most of whom were lightly hurt when trees were knocked over," Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

Israeli military radio said winds were gusting at speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour (74 miles per hour) and in neighbourhoods across Jerusalem, the results were clear.

Trees were toppled at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex that houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, and branches were strewn in streets across the city.

Electricity outages caused by downed powerlines were reported throughout the country.

Israel's meteorological service says this winter will be the wettest in the past decade, and with temperatures expected to plunge in coming days, much of the country could see snow this week.

The stormy weather came as Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land celebrated Christmas on Monday.

In the Gaza Strip, "civil protection teams responded to a number of incidents, among them the collapse of shop signs, roads blocked by falling trees and metal awnings blown away," the civil protection service said.

In the West Bank, civil protection spokesman Louai Bani Odeh said no injuries had been reported so far.

He told AFP that an electrical fire started by flooding broke out in a house in a village near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, but was brought under control without injuring anyone.

"Many roads in towns and villages across the West Bank are flooded. Some of them are blocked by trees and billboards that were knocked over. Many shops are closed," he said.

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