The shutdown follows a series of arrests across the country over the past month, with at least five separate banks raiding depositors last Friday alone in an attempt to recover frozen savings in the banking system.
After the country plunged into a financial crisis in October 2019, millions of Lebanese citizens have been left out of account. Since the local currency lost 90% of its value, more than three-quarters of the population have fallen into poverty and most cannot afford basic items.
In August, a gunman attacked a bank in the capital Beirut and threatened to kill hostages and himself if the bank did not allow him to withdraw money from a frozen account. Saying he needed funds to pay his father’s medical expenses, Bassam Sheikh Hussein handed himself over to the police after the bank gave him some of his savings.
After being cheered on by groups outside the bank, many hailed Hussein as a national hero on social media. An anonymous security source speculated to CNN that Hussein’s methods could be replicated by others.
Last Wednesday, a woman withdrew $20,000 from her account after raiding a bank for what she later claimed was a toy gun to fund her sister’s cancer treatment, according to state news reports.
Later that day, an armed man entered a bank in the city of Mount Aley and recovered some of the seized savings before handing them over to the authorities.
The five banks that were present on Friday were involved in an incident in the southern city of Ghazieh, where an armed man – who poured petrol on the bank’s floor – threatened to burn down the building if he did not get his money, the state news agency reported. NNA reported.
He retrieved $19,200 and passed the money to someone waiting outside the branch before turning it over to authorities, NNA said.