Woman with toy gun holds up Beirut bank to demand her savings

A Lebanese woman held up a bank branch with what she described as a toy pistol yesterday to recover $13,000 of her savings to pay for her sister’s cancer treatment.

Sali Hafez stormed into a branch of Blom Bank in Beirut with a realistic looking firearm and a group of activists. They were protesting against currency controls imposed due to the national financial crisis. The activists forced bank employees to hand over $12,000 and the equivalent of about $1,000 in Lebanese pounds.

Sali Hafez told the local Al-Jadeed TV that she needed the money to fund her sister’s cancer treatment. She said she had repeatedly visited the bank to ask for her money and was told she could only receive $200 a month in Lebanese pounds.  She said she had already sold many of her personal belongings and had considered selling her kidney to fund her 23 year-old sister’s cancer treatment. Hafez said the toy pistol belonged to her nephew.

This is the second hostage situation at a Lebanese bank in weeks, as millions of people continue to be locked out of their accounts due to strict limits on withdrawlas of foreign currency, a move introduced in 2019. About three-quarters of the population has slipped into poverty as the Lebanese economy continues to spiral.

The country has so far failed to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a recovery programme that would unlock billions of dollars in international loans and aid.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla