Lebanese banks to shut after string of hold-ups amid economic crisis

By Elsa Maishman

BBC News

Security forces outside a bankImage source, BBC News

Image caption,

At least five hold ups have been carried out on Friday alone

Banks in Lebanon will close for three days next week after a string of raids by customers demanding access to their frozen savings.

Several copycat raids around the country have followed, with reports of at least five on Friday.

Security forces were deployed to a bank in the capital Beirut as a crowd gathered during one such attempt.

Details of the situation at the Blom Bank branch are unclear.

Witnesses told AFP that a shop owner struggling to pay debts had demanded access to his savings, but was thought to be unarmed.

He was locked inside the bank with police officers, they said.

Lebanon is in a severe economic crisis, with more than 80% of the population struggling to afford food and medicine.

Banks have limited withdrawals of dollars since 2019, when the value of the Lebanese pound plummeted and inflation soared.

A woman held staff hostage at a bank in Beirut on Wednesday, saying she needed to withdraw savings to pay for her sister’s cancer treatment.

She left with $13,000 (£11,000). It is not clear if she was arrested.

In one similar event on Friday, a man threatened staff at a bank in Ghaziyeh with a gun, which may have been a toy.

He was given $19,000 (£16,500), but turned himself in to police as a crowd gathered outside the bank to support him.

As the number of raids snowballed on Friday, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called for an emergency meeting.

Banks will close for three days from Monday, the Association of Banks in Lebanon said.

The raids have mostly drawn support from the general public, and have been seen as acts of desperation by people who do not have criminal records and are trying to settle bills.

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