The shutdowns follow a series of stumbles across the country over the past month, with at least five separate banks suspended by depositors last Friday alone in a bid to restore frozen savings in the banking system.
Millions of Lebanese citizens were locked out of their accounts after the country plunged into a financial crisis in October 2019. With the local currency losing 90% of its value, it has driven more than three-quarters of the population into poverty, most of whom are unable to do so. Pay for basic items.
In August, a gunman stormed a bank in the capital, Beirut, and threatened to kill the hostages himself if the bank did not allow him to withdraw money from his frozen account. Bassam Sheikh Hussein claimed that he needed the money to pay for his father’s medical expenses, so he surrendered to the police after the bank gave him some of his savings.
Encouraged by groups outside the bank, many on social media hailed Hussain as a national hero. An anonymous security source speculated to CNN that Hussain’s methods could be replicated by others.
Last Wednesday, a woman took $20,000 from her account after breaking into a bank armed with what she later claimed was a toy gun in order to fund her sister’s cancer treatment, according to state news.
Later the same day, an armed man entered a bank in the mountainous city of Aley and recovered some of his lingering savings before turning himself in to the authorities.
The five banks that were frozen on Friday included one incident in the southern city of Ghazieh, in which an armed man – after spilling gasoline on the bank’s floor – threatened to burn down the building if he was not allowed access to his money, according to the official news agency. NNA reported.
The agency said he recovered $19,200 and passed the money to someone waiting for him outside the branch before turning himself in to authorities.