A woman brandishing a toy pistol broke into a Beirut bank branch on Wednesday to retrieve her trapped savings. A source from an advocacy group for depositors said she took $13000 in cash from her account, reports Reuters. Banks in Lebanon have locked down most of their savers since a financial crisis hit three years ago, making it difficult for residents to pay for their basic needs .
At around 11 a.m. Wednesday, a woman brandished a toy gun at BLOM Bank in the Sodeco neighborhood of Beirut and demanded access to her money, a security source said. Reuters.
About an hour later, she left with $13,000 in cash, said a source from Depositors’ Outcry, a group that advocates for Lebanese citizens whose savings are stuck at banks. She also took around 6 million Lebanese pounds, worth just $160 after the exchange rate collapsed by more than 90% since 2019.
The group’s source told Reuters that the group had claimed responsibility for the incident.
The woman was identified as Sally Hafez by her mother, who told a local Lebanese TV station that Hafez had taken money from her account to treat her sister with cancer.
“If we hadn’t done this, my daughter would 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 notice at BLOM Bank confirmed the hostage situation had ended but did not give details on the amount of money taken. The security services did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legal impact of the incident.
This is the second such incident in Lebanon in a month. In mid-August, a man went to another commercial bank to withdraw his own money to cure his father’s illness.
Following the previous hostage-taking in August, the alleged perpetrator was arrested but later released without charge after the bank dropped the lawsuit.