Banks ablaze in Lebanon as economy worsens

Lebanon’s economic crisis has deepened, with the Lebanese pound plummeting to an all-time low of 80,000 to the dollar, leading to widespread protests across the country. In the capital, Beirut, protesters set fire to banks, blocked roads and smashed windows, with the Association of Banks in Lebanon’s decision to close all branches further angering citizens and depositors already facing restrictions on withdrawals.

The Badaro neighborhood of Beirut was targeted, with protesters attempting to storm the house of the head of the Association of Banks, Salim Sfeir, following a sit-in in front of the building in Sin El Fil. The glass facades of five banks, including Bank Audi, Fransabank, Credit Bank, Byblos Bank, Bank of Beirut and BBAC, were smashed and car tires were set alight outside armored doors installed after 2019 protests.

The protests were not limited to Beirut. Tires were set ablaze on major roads in Sidon, Marjayoun, Tyre, and in the Bekaa Valley and on the Tripoli-Beddawi highway in northern Lebanon. The Mutahidoun (United) Alliance said that depositors are insisting on recovering their deposits while rejecting further delays.

Economist Violette Balaa said that the protests were a “fabricated disturbance and the result of the political dispute,” and added that the burning of banks was “an attack on the Lebanese economy and confidence in it.” Meanwhile, army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun said that “without the army’s determination, our nation would have been in a much more difficult situation due to the successive events and crises. The army will remain the guarantor of Lebanon’s security.”

Caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam announced that pricing goods in supermarkets in dollars while adopting the black-market exchange rate would be allowed, citing the impossibility of relying on the exchange rate of a particular platform. The Lebanese army confirmed that three soldiers were killed in armed clashes with wanted drug dealers during a raid in the Bekaa Valley, and three wanted individuals were also killed when army units and an intelligence patrol forced their way into a property.

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