Among the assailants spread across the country is a former police officer who burst into the branch brandishing a gun

Dozens of Lebanese storm banks demanding their savings

AP/HUSSEIN MALLA - People queue outside an exchange office to buy US dollars, in Beirut, Lebanon

The soaring inflation observed with concern by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the lack of leadership in the Lebanese parliament are two of the factors that are dragging Lebanese society towards an abyss of insecurity. This unease is reflected in the spate of assaults on bank branches across the country. Lebanese savers have once again taken action, demanding their savings in what has been the partial reopening of banks after a week-long strike in protest against the continuous assaults they have been suffering in recent weeks.

A branch of the International Bank of Lebanon (IBL) in Hazmieh saw Georges Habib Siam, honorary consul general of Ireland and former director of protocol at the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, break in and refuse to leave the bank until all his savings were handed over to him. Similar to what he did at BLC Bank in the Bekaa region, Ali Deeb Al-Sahli, a retired member of the Internal Security Forces, who demanded a transfer of $4,300 to his son in Ukraine, who was expelled from university for non-payment.


This case is the one that has generated the most commotion on social media due to a video showing Al-Sahli waving a gun while shouting at the branch workers to "count the money, before one of you dies". The protest group Depositors' Outcry has claimed that the assailant offered to sell his kidney to fund his son's expenses after months of waiting for the bank to unblock the transfer of the money. However, Al-Sahli was unsuccessful in getting the bank to provide him with the money, and was taken down by security forces.

The day of assaults brought cases such as that of Ali Hassan Hodroj who, like Ali Deeb Al-Sahli, carried a gun which he even fired as a warning. On this occasion, the assailant received £9,000 of the £40,000 he initially demanded, and managed to hand it over to a demonstrator outside the bank before being arrested by the police.

Informal withdrawal limits imposed by banks are stifling a liquidity-starved society. And it is a view shared by the head of the Lebanese Depositors Association, Hassan Moghnich, who believes that "the situation will worsen as long as there is no radical solution to the problem of deposit retention". He added that "ignoring this will lead to more chaos, despite all the measures taken, as all people have deposits in the banks".


Despite Moghnich's words, the situation does not seem to have an easy, let alone quick, solution. The latest communiqué issued by the Lebanese Banks Association was more alarmist than optimistic. It stated that if the situation did not change significantly, the IMF would stop negotiating with Beirut, making it inevitable that the supply of electricity, water, telecommunications, medicines and a long list of other minimum services would cease. The IMF warned that the current trend suggests that the Central Bank's reserves will be depleted and, as a result, no foreign purchases can be guaranteed.