Three years of financial turmoil in Lebanon have resulted in fewer bank withdrawals. According to the World Bank, Lebanon is currently experiencing one of the biggest financial crises since the middle of the 19th century.
Customers who wanted access to their own money looted two banks in Lebanon on Wednesday. In the first incident, a woman and a handful of her companions barricaded themselves inside BLOM Bank in Beirut’s capital while carrying a rifle. According to a group that represents depositors, she took $13,000 from her account before leaving (via Reuters).
Aley, a city in the mountains, was the scene of a gun-wielding guy who entered a Bankmed location shortly after and demanded some of the money stashed in his savings account.
A different man robbed a bank in Beirut last month to get money to pay for his father’s medical care. To gain access to the roughly $30,000 of the $200,000 locked in his account, the individual held six hostages.
Sali Hafiz, the lady who robbed the BLOM Bank, spoke to Al Jadeed TV before running away. She claims that a few days prior, she had gone to the bank to request access to her cash but was turned down, adding that she needed the money to pay for her sister’s cancer treatment. Before choosing to seek her money back from the bank, she claims she even thought of selling one of her kidneys to pay for it.
Hafiz said to Al Jadeed TV, “I have nothing more to lose, I got to the end of the road,” adding that the gun she used to rob the bank was a fake.
According to a BLOM Bank spokesman who spoke to Reuters, Hafiz and her companions entered the bank and made threats to set people on fire if they were not given the money.
Hiam Hafiz, Sali Hafiz’s mother, discussed her daughter’s behavior with a local TV station. “This money in the bank is all we have. My daughter was coerced into using this money to treat her sister, even though it was in her account and within her rights.
Banks in Lebanon assert that customers may withdraw money for humanitarian purposes, although depositors complain that even in emergency situations, withdrawals are infrequently approved.
Less is known about the individual who approached the Aley branch of Bankmed and requested money, and Bankmed has so far refrained from commenting.