Lebanon hit by string of bank robberies as citizens try to claim own savings

Several people across Lebanon desperately attempted to rob their country’s banks in order to get hold of their own savings — a sign of the country’s deteriorating financial situation.

On Friday, there were at least five bank robberies. One person entered the building armed with a hunting rifle, spurred on by restrictions on the amount customers are able to withdraw from banks since 2019.

In the past 48 hours, at least seven banks were robbed.

One customer carrying something that seemed like a weapon managed to take $19,000 from his own account.

After the robbery, he gave the money to this accomplice, who the local press claimed was his own son, before turning himself in to the police.

In the southern part of the country’s capital Beirut, a man armed with a dummy pistol managed to withdraw $20,000 from a bank.

Another man, identified as Abed Soubra, entered a bank armed, demanding access to his $300,000 in savings.

He eventually left the bank after sundown without his money, and authorities did not take him into custody.

In another part of Beirut, a man with a hunting rifle demanded his deposit. The man, Jawad Sleem, is a father of seven who has been jobless for months.

In response, the Lebanese Banks Association has decided to close all branches from 19 to 21 September.

Lebanon is experiencing what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst economic crises, with nearly three-quarters of the country’s population having been pushed into absolute poverty.

The country’s currency, the Lebanese lira, has lost 95% of its value since 2019.

The economic crisis has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 ammonium nitrate explosion at Beirut’s port, which was considered one of the worst non-nuclear blasts in history. 

The 1.1 kilotonne blast, which is still being investigated, caused at least 218 deaths and 7,000 injuries, and left at least 300,000 people homeless.