Snowstorm in Jerusalem
© Uriel Sinai Source: Getty Images Cars sit stuck during a snowstorm on one of the two main highways to Jerusalem.
THE heaviest snowfall in decades has blocked roads across Israel and the West Bank, while torrential rains have flooded areas of the Gaza Strip.

The heavy snow, which stopped falling on Saturday afternoon, prompted Israeli authorities to interrupt the Jewish Sabbath to lay on relief trains.

Nationwide, some 30,000 households were without electricity, nearly 9,000 of them in Jerusalem, the Israel Electric Corp said.

Jerusalem city workers managed to clear most roads of drifting snow but appealed to residents to stay at home as fallen trees posed a persistent traffic hazard.

Few had ventured out, apart from observant Jews walking to synagogues.

The snow follows similar flurries across Egypt, where snow fell in Cairo for the first time in 112 years.

Jerusalem-based meteorologist Boaz Nechemia told AFP that between 45 and 60cm of snow had accumulated in the Holy City by Saturday.

"We haven't had such a snowfall in some 70 years,'' he said, noting that a metre of snow fell on Jerusalem in 1920.

With road travel almost impossible, authorities laid on free trains to Tel Aviv and Haifa on the coast, interrupting for the first time ever the shutdown of public transport on the Jewish day of prayer and rest, which runs from sundown on Friday to Saturday night.

The army said it was using armoured vehicles to distribute aid to areas cut off by the bad weather.

Channel 2 television said an initial estimate put the damages at $US85 million ($A95.62 million).

A police spokeswoman said four people had died due to weather-related accidents since Thursday night.

Access to West Bank cities such as Ramallah remained blocked by heavy snowfall, with the only source of power in many cases being private generators.

Low ground on the coast was spared the snowfall, but torrential rains left areas of the Gaza Strip submerged.

The territory's Hamas rulers said 5500 people had been rescued and sheltered after their homes were flooded on Saturday.

Gaza health services said a person died from asphyxiation trying to heat his home, and hundreds suffered weather-related injuries.

In some places, security forces and rescue workers were evacuating residents using small boats.
Flooding in Gaza strip
© AP/Khalil Hamra Rescue workers evacuated more than 5,000 Gaza Strip residents from homes flooded by four days of heavy rain, using fishing boats and heavy construction equipment to pluck some of those trapped from upper floors.