Banks in Lebanon have said they will close for three days on Monday , after depositors stormed several branches on Friday, holding employees hostage and forcibly demanding to withdraw their savings.
On Friday, eight banks were held up by depositors who demanded their own money, adding to a spate of holdups this week spurred by frustration over a spiraling financial implosion with no end in sight.
Lebanese banks have insisted that dollars be withdrawn only after being exchanged into Lebanese pounds at a vastly inferior rate to the black market, which is generally the rate used across the country.
A man with a gun that turned out to be a toy was arrested after holding up a Lebanese bank in the southern city of Ghazieh, a security source said.
Local Lebanese news said the man managed to obtain $19,200 from his deposits before handing himself over to the police.
Separately on Friday morning, an armed man entered a branch of BLOM Bank in the Lebanese capital’s Tariq al-Jdideh neighbourhood attempting to withdraw his money, the bank said in a statement, adding that the situation was under control.
The man, identified as Abed Soubra, was cheered on by a large crowd of people gathered outside – a scene that has played out in several such incidents.
Rabih Kojok, a local resident at the scene, said Soubra is a merchant and owes people money.
“What should he do? Go to jail because people need money from him while he has money in the bank? He’s in the right,” he said.
In a third incident, a man armed with a pellet gun entered a branch of LGB Bank in Beirut’s Ramlet al-Bayda area seeking to withdraw some $50,000 in savings, a bank employee said, adding the situation was continuing and that employees and customers were stuck inside.
According to Khodr, a union called the Outcry Association has declared war against the banks.
“That’s the words they are using,” she said. “They are promising that these incidents are going to happen over and over again.”
In another incident on Friday afternoon, a former member of the military got $25,000 in cash from his account at a BankMed branch outside of Beirut after firing shots inside the branch and threatening to commit suicide if he did not get the full amount, an industry source told Reuters.
The source said the man handed the money to his mother and was subsequently detained by security forces.