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      Massive Sand Storm Hits the Negev as Snow Smacks the North

      A massive sand storm hit the Negev Desert Wednesday, prompting a health warning from the Environmental Protection Ministry.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 2/29/2012, 3:45 PM

      Sand and wind swirled through the Negev
      Sand and wind swirled through the Negev
      Hana Levi Julian

      A massive dust storm hit the Negev Desert Wednesday afternoon, prompting a health warning from Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry, as a cold front moves in ahead of the next few days of stormy winter weather. Snow fell in the northern Golan Heights and is expected to spread to the center.

      Strong winds sent camel-colored sand and dust swirling across the hills of the northern Negev by early afternoon, narrowing visibility to near zero.

      The ministry has warned residents in the area, particularly those with heart trouble and breathing-related illnesses such as asthma to stay indoors. Children, the elderly and pregnant women were also warned to avoid physical exertion during the day, officials said.

      Pets were brought inside, and residents rushed to close any stray windows or shutters that might have been left open to allow "fresh air" to enter homes or offices during the day.

      Earlier in the day, forecasters were predicting that Israel would see its first nationwide snowstorm in years by the end of the week.

      But while sand is swirling across the northern Negev, including the relatively high-altitude city of Arad, meteorologists have warned that by Wednesday night, there will be “significant snowfall" starting in other high-altitude areas of the country. Among them is likely to be the mountainous central Negev area around Mitzpe Ramon.

      Snow is certainly expected in Jerusalem, Mount Hermon, the Galilee, Gush Etzion, and the southern Hevron Hills.

      Fierce winds and rain already had begun to lash communities across the country Tuesday night, however. On Highway 60 in Judea, a barrage of hail created a “white out” on the road late Tuesday night, battering  the road at Beit Ummar where just a few days earlier, Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists had hurled rocks in a deadly attempt to kill Israeli motorists.

      Meanwhile, on Israel's northern coastal region, trees were torn out of the ground by Wednesday midday, and in several locations traffic lights were ripped from their installations. At least one person was moderately injured by mid-afternoon when a door flew off its hinge and slammed into a 45-year-old construction worker at a nearby site, hitting him in the head. A second man was injured at a glass shop when a door suddenly slammed on a 70-year-old man. Both men were taken to Laniado Hospital in the city.