Deadly Sandstorm Brings Life And War To A Halt In The Middle East

The dust stopped Syrian regime airstrikes, but left thousands in war-torn Syria and nearby refugee camps at risk.

09/08/2015 12:21 pm ET | Updated Sep 08, 2015
Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Syrian children walk amid the dust during a sandstorm on Sept. 7, 2015 at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. 

Thick yellow dust blew into Middle Eastern capitals from the east on Tuesday, putting life -- and war -- briefly on pause.

The massive sandstorm started in Iraq and also blanketed parts of Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Health authorities in several countries warned people not to leave their homes, and schools closed in Jordan and Lebanon. Many flights across the region were grounded due to poor visibility. The Syrian regime even called off airstrikes against rebels in central Syria on Monday due to the weather. 

NASA Worldview image of the sandstorm in the Middle East, Sept. 7, 2015.

While some Syrians had a brief respite from the bombing, the storm presented dangers of its own. Thousands of Syrians were hospitalized with breathing problems and oxygen supplies were running low in some areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. In the Syrian capital Damascus, health officials said they had treated more than 1,200 people, including 100 children, with breathing difficulties.

Several casualties were reported in connection with the storm in Lebanon. The country's health ministry said two women were killed and some 750 hospitalized. Syrian refugees sheltering in informal camps in Lebanon were particularly hard hit by the storm, Agence France Press reported

Dust storms often hit the Middle East during the summer, but officials said the current sandstorm was unusual in its intensity and wide spread across the region.

 See below for images of the sandstorm from across the Middle East:

Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI/Getty Images
A Palestinian man wears a mask to protect his face from the dust as he walks past the Dome of the Rock mosque in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, on Sept. 8, 2015.
Credit: MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images
A Lebanese man plays with a fish close to the Sidon Sea Castle during a sandstorm in the southern port city of Sidon, on Sept. 8, 2015. 
Credit: Getty Images
Syrian refugee children look on from a window during a sandstorm at a refugee camp near the Bekaa Valley village of Taalabaya, on Sept. 8, 2015.
Credit: Bilal Jawich/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A plane is seen during a sand storm that hit Lebanon's Beirut on Sept. 8, 2015. 
Credit: JOSEPH EID/Getty Images
A Lebanese man on his scooter wears a face mask as he drives past a graffiti painted wall during a sandstorm in Beirut on Sept. 8, 2015
Syrian citizens cross a street as a sandstorm shrouds Damascus, Syria,  Sept. 8, 2015.
Credit: Bilal Hussein/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Syrian refugees peel garlic outside their tents during a sandstorm, in a refugee camp in the town of Bar Elias, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Sept. 8, 2015.
Dust hangs over wheat fields in Anthoupolis, a suburb of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on Sept. 7, 2015.
Credit: THOMAS COEX/Getty Images
A Palestinian man walks with a camel at Mont of Olives in Jerusalem during a sandstorm, on Sept. 8, 2015.
 A man walks on the beach in Limassol as a sandstorm hits the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Sept. 8, 2015.
Credit: Hassan Ammar/ASSOCIATED PRESS
People swim at the public beach of Ramlet al Bayda during a sand storm in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 8, 2015. 

This post has been updated to include Israel in the list of countries affected by the storm.

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