Lebanon records third armed bank withdrawal in seven days

A Lebanese man with a pistol and a fuel jerry can took his frozen savings at gunpoint on Friday, the third incident in the crisis-stricken country this week.

When a branch of the Byblos bank opened in the southern city of Ghaziyeh, a saver, reportedly in his 50s, stormed the property with his adult son.

He threatened bank employees with a gun, which a Lebanese TV channel said could be a toy, and demanded his savings.

“He emptied a fuel canister on the floor,” a bank guard told an AFP reporter.

The man walked away with about $19,000 and turned himself in to police moments later when a crowd formed in front of the bank to support him.

It was the latest in a string of robberies in Lebanon, where depositors’ savings were devalued for nearly three years and trapped in banks amid a crippling economic crisis.

They are mostly acts of economic desperation by depositors with no criminal record trying to pay bills, and have aroused widespread sympathy among the general public.

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On Wednesday, a young woman propped up a bank in central Beirut with a similar modus operandi, in what she said was an attempt to recover the savings of her sister, a cancer patient.

Sali Hafiz instantly became a social media hero and a phone photo of standing on a desk in the bank during the robbery went viral.

Also on Wednesday, a man propped up a bank in the town of Aley northeast of Beirut, the official National News Agency reported.

Last month, a man gained widespread sympathy after storming a bank in Beirut with a gun and holding employees and customers hostage for hours, demanding part of his $200,000 in frozen savings to pay the hospital bills for his ailing father.

He was arrested but quickly released.

Lebanon has been ravaged by one of the worst economic crises ever.

The currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, while poverty and unemployment have risen.

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