A woman brandishing a toy pistol, broke into a Beirut bank branch on Wednesday, to retrieve her trapped savings. A source from a depositors’ advocacy group said she took $13000 in cash from her account, reported Reuters. The banks in Lebanon locked most depositors out of their savings since a financial crisis took place three years ago, which left people struggling to pay for their basic needs.
On Wednesday around 11 am, a woman brandishing a toy gun entered BLOM Bank in Beirut’s Sodeco neighbourhood and demanded access to her funds, a security source told Reuters.
Around an hour later, she left with $13,000 in cash dollars, said a source from the Depositors’ Outcry group, which advocates for Lebanese citizens with savings stuck at banks. She also took around 6 million Lebanese pounds, worth only $160 after the more than 90 per cent collapse in the exchange rate since 2019.
The source at the group told Reuters that the group took responsibility for the incident.
The woman was identified as Sally Hafez by her mother, who told a local Lebanese television station that Hafez took money from her own account to treat her younger sister who has cancer.
“If we hadn’t done this, my daughter could have died,” her mother told Al-Jadeed.
“All we have is this money in the bank. My daughter was forced to take this money – it’s her right, it’s in her account – to treat her sister,” she said.
A statement at BLOM Bank confirmed the hostage situation had ended but did not give details on the amount taken. The security services did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the legal implications of the incident.
This was the second such incident in Lebanon in a month. In mid-August, a man held up another commercial bank to withdraw his own funds to treat his sick father.
After the previous hostage incident in August, the accused perpetrator was arrested but then later released without charge after the bank dropped its lawsuit.