A brief hostage situation at Lebanon’s BLOM Bank BLOM.BY ended on Wednesday when an apparently armed woman and her associates left the bank carrying more than $13 000 in cash from her own account, a source from a depositors’ advocacy group said.
Lebanon’s banks have locked most depositors out of their savings since a financial crisis took hold three years ago, leaving much of the population unable to pay for basic needs.
It was the second such incident in Lebanon in around a month, after a man in mid-August held up another commercial bank to withdraw his own funds to treat his sick father.
Around 11:00 am on Wednesday, a woman carrying what appeared to be a gun entered BLOM Bank in Beirut’s Sodeco neighbourhood and demanded access to her funds, a security source told Reuters.
Around an hour later, she left with $13 000 in cash dollars, said a source from the Depositors’ Outcry group, which advocates for Lebanese citizens with savings stuck at banks. She also took around 6 million in Lebanese pounds, worth only $160 after the more than 90% collapse in the exchange rate since 2019.
The source at the group told Reuters that the group took responsibility for the incident.
The woman was identified as Sally Hafez by her mother, who told a local Lebanese television station that Hafez took money from her own account to treat her younger sister who has cancer.
“If we hadn’t done this, my daughter could have died,” her mother told Al-Jadeed.
“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,” she said.
Reuters was unable to immediately contact Hafez.
A statement at BLOM Bank confirmed the hostage situation had ended but did not give details on the amount taken. The security services did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the legal immplications of the incident.
After the previous hostage incident in August, the accused perpetrator was arrested but then later released without charge after the bank dropped its lawsuit.