Woman With Toy Gun Takes Her Own Money From Bank

Sali Hafez said Beirut bank had $20K of her money, she needed to pay for sister's treatment
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 14, 2022 1:01 PM CDT
Woman With Toy Gun Takes Her Own Money From Bank
Sali Hafez, center, accompanied by activists looks at her phone after breaking into a BLOM Bank branch brandishing what she later said was a toy pistol and taking $13,000 from her trapped savings accopunt, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

A woman accompanied by activists and brandishing what she said was a toy pistol broke into a Beirut bank branch on Wednesday, taking $13,000 from her trapped savings. Sali Hafez told Al-Jadeed TV that she needed the money to fund her 23-year-old sister’s cancer treatment, reports the AP. 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. Hafez said the toy pistol belonged to her nephew.

Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks have imposed strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency since 2019, tying up the savings of millions of people. Hafez said she had a total of $20,000 in savings trapped in the bank. She and activists from a group called Depositors' Outcry entered the BLOM Bank branch and stormed into the manager's office. They forced bank employees to hand over $12,000 and the equivalent of about $1,000 in Lebanese pounds. "I had begged the branch manager before for my money, and I told him my sister was dying, didn’t have much time left," she said in the TV interview. "I reached a point where I had nothing else to lose."

Nadine Nakhal, a bank customer, said the intruders "doused gasoline everywhere inside, and took out a lighter and threatened to light it." She said the woman with the pistol threatened to shoot the manager if she did not receive her money. Hafez said in a live-streamed video she posted on her Facebook account that she did not intend to do harm. "I did not break into the bank to kill anyone or set the place on fire," she said. "I am here to get my rights." Hafez was celebrated as a hero across social media in Lebanon, as many in the crisis-hit country struggle to make ends meet and retrieve their savings. She encouraged others to take similar action to reclaim their savings. (A similar act last month involved hostages.)

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