Lebanese lenders remain closed amid uncertainties

Due to continuous “risks” to personnel and clients, Lebanon’s banks will stay closed indefinitely. This was revealed in a statement released by the Association of Lebanese Banks.

The closure has become a necessity following a string of snags that have occurred around the nation over the past month, with at least five different banks being held up in one day by depositors trying to withdraw savings that have been frozen in the banking system.

Lebanon experienced a destabilising financial crisis in October 2019 which saw its local currency devalued by over 90%, and since then, millions of its citizens have been unable to access their accounts. The crisis has seen over 75% of the population living in poverty and unable to afford to purchase the most basic day-to-day essentials.

In August, a masked gunman entered a bank in Beirut, the capital city, and demanded access to his frozen account, threatening to kill the hostages and himself if his request is not granted. Bassam Sheikh Hussein turned himself in to the authorities after the bank offered him some of his savings, claiming he needed the money to cover his father’s medical bills.

Hussein was applauded by crowds outside the bank, while many people on social media hailed him as a national hero. Analysts and eyewitnesses already predicted that other frustrated citizens may be inspired to replicate Hussein’s tactics.

Another incident took place in September when state news reported that a woman stole $20,000 from her after storming a bank with what she subsequently said was a toy gun. The woman indicated that she needed the fund urgently to pay for her sister’s cancer treatment. Later that same day, an armed man broke into a bank in the alpine town of Aley and took part of his trapped savings out before turning himself in to the police.

The most recent case involved five different banks, all on the same day. One of them happened in the southern city of Ghazieh, where an armed man had doused the banking hall with gasoline and threatened to burn the building down if he wasn’t allowed access to his money, as reported by Lebanon’s national news agency.

Before turning himself in to the police, he took out $19,200 and gave cash to someone waiting outside the branch, according to NNA. 

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