Lebanese banks to close next week after more branches are stormed

Lebanese banks have said they will soon announce a three-day closure next week over mounting security concerns following a series of incidents involving people seeking access to their savings by entering banks armed with guns.

On Friday, eight banks were held up by depositors who demanded their own money, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reported, adding to a spate of holdups this week spurred by frustration over a spiralling financial implosion with no end in sight.

Lebanese banks have insisted that dollars be withdrawn only after being exchanged into Lebanese pounds at a vastly inferior rate to the black market, which is generally the rate used across the country.

A man with a gun that turned out to be a toy was arrested after holding up a Lebanese bank in the southern city of Ghazieh, a security source said.

Local Lebanese news said the man managed to obtain $19,200 from his deposits before handing himself over to the police.

Separately on Friday morning, an armed man entered a branch of BLOM Bank in the Lebanese capital’s Tariq al-Jdideh neighbourhood attempting to withdraw his money, the bank said in a statement, adding that the situation was under control.

The man, identified as Abed Soubra, was cheered on by a large crowd of people gathered outside – a scene that has played out in several such incidents.

“Abed is demanding his money, $275,000 in savings,” Khodr said, speaking outside the bank. “He is saying he can no longer survive and he is in debt and that he has a right to his money.”

Rabih Kojok, a local resident at the scene, said Soubra is a merchant and owes people money.

“What should he do? Go to jail because people need money from him while he has money in the bank? He’s in the right,” he said.

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