Lebanon banks held up by customers trying to draw their own money

·2-min read

Two banks in Lebanon have been held up by customers attempting to draw out their own money which has been frozen as the country suffers an economic meltdown.

Most have been locked out of foreign currency assets for the last two years, with banks only allowing small withdrawals which often don't cover the essentials.

In two separate incidents on Wednesday, banks were held up by customers attempting to access their savings.

During one stick-up, a woman and some associates took what she said was a toy gun into a branch of BLOM bank in Beirut and left with more than $13,000 in cash from her account.

The woman, Sali Hafiz, said she stormed the bank to get money for her sister's cancer treatment.

BLOM bank said customers were threatened during the raid, with the branch manager and treasurer forced to bring money from a safe.

Later, an armed man went into a Bankmed branch in the mountain city of Aley to get some of his trapped savings back.

He handed himself in shortly after.

It comes a month after a man held up a bank in Beirut to withdraw funds to treat his sick father.

He was arrested but later released after the bank dropped charges.

'I have nothing more to lose'

Before going into hiding, Ms Hafiz told local media that she had no other choice but to hold up the BLOM bank.

She said: "I have nothing more to lose, I got to the end of the road.

"I got to a point where I was going to sell my kidney so that my sister could receive treatment."

Ms Hafiz said she had attempted to draw money two days earlier but was unable to do so.

Her mother told local TV: "All we have is this money in the bank. My daughter was forced to take this money - it's her right, it's in her account - to treat her sister."

Banks are supposed to make exceptions for customers attempting to pay for things like hospital care, but many say this does not happen.

Senior bankers have warned that hold-ups may increase.

One told Reuters: "I think this is an invitation for other people to do the same. As long as people get away with it, they will continue. What a failed state."