Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns

Update Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
1 / 6
Above, the shuttered branch of the Byblos bank in Ghazieh, south of Lebanon after an armed depositor stormed the placed earlier and demanded to withdraw his frozen savings. (AFP)
Update Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
2 / 6
Above, scene at the Byblos Bank branch in Ghazieh, south of Lebanon after a depositor forcibly withdrew his savings. (Twitter)
Update Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
3 / 6
Security men gather at the entrance of BLOM bank branch in Beirut on Sept. 16, 2022. (AP)
Update Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
4 / 6
Media and security gather at the entrance of BLOM bank branch in Beirut on Sept. 16, 2022. (AP)
Update Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
5 / 6
Protestors shout slogans as they sit outside an LGB Bank branch in Ramlet Al-Bayda area in Beirut on Sept. 16, 2022. (Reuters)
Update Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
6 / 6
Members of police and army stand guard outside a Bankmed branch in Chehime, Lebanon on Sept. 16, 2022. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 17 September 2022

Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns

Lebanese banks declare three-day closure over security concerns
  • Bank holdups by increasingly frustrated depositors snowball in Lebanon
  • Strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency have been imposed since 2019

BEIRUT: Depositors wanting to recover withheld savings carried out hold-ups in at least five different banks across Lebanon on Friday.

The banks have been denying people access to their money for three years, with the government yet to establish a legal framework for the recovery of deposits, pushing depositors to retrieve their funds by force.

In Friday’s incidents, security forces negotiated with depositors, some of whom voluntarily headed to police stations to surrender after making sure their money safely reached relatives.

They followed events on Wednesday, when Sali Hafiz stormed her local bank with a toy gun and managed to recover part of her savings to help pay for her sister’s cancer treatment. The security forces issued an arrest warrant against her, but she remains at large.

Hassan Moghnieh, the head of the Lebanon’s Depositors Association, told Arab News: “It is an uprising of depositors who can no longer endure more than three years of having their savings withheld. Five banks were stormed on Friday, and there is news about more banks being stormed in Nabatiyeh in the south, Batroun, and Halba in the north.”


STORMING OF THE BANKS

Banks reportedly held up by depositors

• Byblos Bank in Ghazieh
• BLOM Bank at Beirut’s Tarik El-Jadida
• Bank Audi in Chiyah
• Banque Libano-Française branches at Kafaat and Hamra
• Lebanon & Gulf Bank at Ramlet El-Baida
• BLOM Bank in Concorde
• Fransabank in Beirut
• BankMed in Chehim in Mount Lebanon


Friday’s incidents prompted the bank association to hold an emergency meeting and decide to close banks for three days starting Monday.

Depositor Mohammed Reda Korkmaz and his son Ibrahim stormed the Byblos Bank branch in Ghazieh. The father held employees hostage, poured gasoline, and threatened to set the branch on fire if he did not get his money back.

Panic ensued at the bank for some time, and Korkomaz managed to retrieve $19,200 from his account and handed it over to someone who was waiting for him outside the bank.

It turned out that Korkmaz worked as a taxi driver, and he used a plastic pistol and a gasoline bottle to threaten employees. Later, he and his son surrendered, smiling to the security forces at the scene.

Abdel Rahman Sobra stormed the BLOM Bank branch in Tariq Al-Jdideh, one of the most popular and crowded neighborhoods in Beirut.

He claimed to have a gun in his pocket but did not use it to threaten employees.

He demanded to recover his withheld deposits, estimated at $165,000. Sobra said he was a businessman and is unable to pay his dues and cover his employees’ salaries.

A woman in her 80s later joined Sobra, asking to be allowed to withdraw her money as she needs to pay her medical bills.

Video footage from inside the bank showed that security forces entered to negotiate with Sobra but did not arrest him.

An armed depositor broke into the Bank of Lebanon and Gulf in Ramlet Al-Bayda, in the south of Beirut, carrying a hunting rifle. The depositor, identified as Jawad Sleem, is unemployed, according to his brother, who was waiting for him outside the bank.

Sleem used to work in real estate but became unemployed after the economic collapse in the country. He demanded $35,000 from his deposit of $50,000 and held five hostages inside the bank.

Armed with a gun, a depositor from Al-Moussawi family stormed the Libano-Française bank in Mrayjeh in one of Beirut’s southern suburbs, and forcibly took his entire deposit of $20,000.

A depositor who is a serving lieutenant in the Internal Security Forces broke into Bankmed in Chehime in Iklim El-Kharoub. It was said that he fired into the air.

Activist lawyer Haytham Azzo, known for defending civilians protesting in the streets and depositors breaking into banks, told Arab News that these depositors do not have criminal intentions, and only want their rightful property.

“This is the result of the state not addressing the frozen dollar deposits crisis as the economic crisis worsens. The state is turning normal civilians into criminals when they are not as such,” Azzo said.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called for an immediate meeting of the Central Security Council. “The law will be strictly enforced, however, I will not accept a confrontation between people and the security forces; There will be no gunfire or harsh treatment,” he said.

Mawlawi addressed depositors: “You cannot reclaim your rights in such a way as it harms the banking system and leads to the rest of the depositors losing their rights.”




Above, the smiling suspects surrender to the police. (Twitter)

The bank association said its decision to suspend work came “after the repeated attacks on banks, especially the physical assaults on bank employees and their dignity.”

It also came “after taking into account the risks that the customers are facing inside the branches subjected to storming operations.”

The association stressed that “it wants to protect the interests of depositors” and that “violence was not and will not be a solution.”

Economic expert Jassem Ajaka told Arab News that storming banks is a “very dangerous indicator that the government has given up on its role, to the extent that people themselves are now reclaiming their rights.”

He said: “This is a warning for the government to approve the draft of the Capital Control Law, restructure banks and acknowledge public debt.”

President of the Lebanese Depositors Association Hassan Moghnieh said: “An increase in bank break-ins was expected,” adding “closing down banks will not address the crisis, since the break-ins will restart on the first day of banks reopening their doors.”

He warned of “massive social chaos” and denied that “any party was responsible for depositors’ uprising.”


Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money
Updated 9 min 43 sec ago

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money

Depositors storm Lebanon banks to demand their frozen money
  • Banks shuttered their branches last week after a spate of holdups by angry depositors

BEIRUT: Lebanese depositors, including a retired police officer, stormed at least three banks in the cash-strapped country Tuesday after banks ended a week-long strike and partially reopened.

As the tiny Mediterranean nation’s crippling economic crisis continues to worsen, a growing number of Lebanese depositors have opted to break into banks and forcefully withdraw their trapped savings. Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks have imposed informal limits on cash withdrawals. The break-ins reflect growing public anger toward the banks and the authorities who have struggled to reform the country’s corrupt and battered economy.

Three-quarters of the population have plunged into poverty in an economic crisis that the World Bank describes as one of the worst in over a century. Meanwhile, the Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value against that dollar, making it difficult for millions across the country to cope with skyrocketing prices.

Ali Al-Sahli, a retired officer who served in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, raided a BLC Bank branch in the eastern town of Chtaura, demanding $24,000 in trapped savings to transfer to his son, who owes rent and tuition fees in Ukraine.

“Count the money, before one of you dies,” Al-Sahli said in a video he recorded with one hand while waving a gun in the other.

 

 

According to Depositors’ Outcry, a protest group, Al-Sahli said he had offered to sell his kidney to fund his son’s expenses, after the bank for months blocked him from transferring money. With his son owing months of rent and tuition fees, the retired officer reached out to the protest group for help.

In the video he filmed on his cellphone, Al-Sahli waved a handgun, threatening to shoot, if bank employees didn’t oblige. Employees struggled to calm him down, as protesters from the depositors group and bystanders watched from outside.

Al-Sahli was unable to retrieve any of his money, and security forces arrested him.

Elsewhere, a depositor broke into a Byblos Bank branch in the southern city of Tyre. And in the northern city of Tripoli, workers of the Qadisha Electricity Company broke into a local First National Bank branch protesting banks deducting fees from their delayed salary payments. The Lebanese Army arrived at the site in Tripoli and patrolled the area.

Some depositors’ protest groups, including the Depositors’ Outcry, have supported the break-ins and vowed to continue doing so.

“We’re sending a message to the banks that their security measures won’t stop the depositors, because these depositors are all struggling,” Depositors’ Outcry media coordinator Moussa Agassi told The Associated Press. “We’re trying to tell the bank owners to try to find a solution, and beefing up security measures isn’t going to keep them safe.”

The general public have commended the angry depositors, some even hailing them as heroes, most notably Sally Hafez, who stormed a Beirut bank branch with a fake pistol and gasoline canister to take some $13,000 to fund her 23 year-old sister’s cancer treatment.

The banks, however, have condemned the heists, and urged the Lebanese government to provide security personnel.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon in late September shuttered for one week after at least seven depositors stormed into branches and forcefully took their trapped savings that month, citing security concerns. The banks last week partially reopened a handful of branches, only welcoming commercial clients with appointments into their premises.

Lebanon meanwhile has been struggling to restructure its financial sector and economy to reach an agreement with The International Monetary Fund for a bailout. The IMF has criticized Lebanese officials for their slow progress.


Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

Iran launches test ‘tug’ into suborbital space
  • Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center
  • Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits.
State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry.
Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state TV that officials “hope to use and test the main tug in near future.” Iran unveiled the craft in 2017. A space tug can transfer a satellite from one orbit to another.
Iran has long pursued a space program saying it is aimed at peaceful purposes. The country has both a civilian and a military space program, which the US fears could be used to advance its ballistic missile program.
In June Tehran had launched a solid-fuel rocket into space and in August a Russian rocket successfully launched an Iranian Khayyam satellite into orbit. It’s named after Omar Khayyam, a Persian scientist who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries.
However, Iran has seen a series of mishaps and failed satellite launches over recent years
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The Guard operates its own military infrastructure parallel to Iran’s regular armed forces.


Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
Updated 04 October 2022

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz

Yemen seeks to implement developmental projects in Taiz
  • Work plans and challenges were reviewed ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction

ADEN: Yemeni officials reviewed plans with charity organizations to implement developmental projects in Taiz as part of ongoing reconstruction efforts in the province.

On Monday, Taiz Governor Nabil Shamsan discussed work plans and challenges ahead of finalizing projects under the Saudi Program for Yemen’s Development and Reconstruction.
Yemen is working closely with Saudi Arabia to establish a college of medicine in Taiz University, construct a center to treat cancer and rehabilitate a road linking Taiz with Makha.
Shamsan said these sustainable projects aim to serve the people of Taiz, which remains under Houthi siege, and mitigate the effects that the war has left on vulnerable communities.
Meanwhile, Major General Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, the Undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for Defense and Security Affairs, discussed de-mining efforts with the HALO Trust, a Scottish charity organization specialized in clearing mines in war zones.
He vowed collaboration with the organization in surveying targeted areas, detecting the type of mines implanted and raising awareness among citizens on dealing with mines that might be encountered.
He said local authorities would facilitate the work with the organization to de-mine high-priority targeted areas and save lives.


Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
Updated 04 October 2022

Iran arrests prominent rights activists

Iran arrests prominent rights activists
  • Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them

DUBAI: Iran’s crackdown against prominent individuals linked to ongoing protests in the country continues with the arrest of prominent human rights activists in Tehran.

Bahareh Hedayat, a university student, was detained early on October 3, Radio Farda reported, as the unrest hit a crescendo in Tehran and has hit far-flung provinces in open demonstration of grievances against rigid social restrictions, political repression and a failing economy.

Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times, the report noted, quoting the BBC.

Hossein Masumi, another political activist, was arrested on October 2 with his whereabouts unknown according to his family.

Meanwhile, a group of Iranian school girls were seen in viral footage expelling an education ministry official from their school premises, according to Iran International.

The London-based TV station shared the video saying the footage was taken at a school in Gohardasht of Karaj, west of Tehran. 

The protest actions, spurred by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while under detention by Iran’s morality police for alleged violations of the Islamic dress code, are on their third week despite government efforts to quell them.

The Iranian government has been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them, and being used as basis for the detention of key personalities.

 


UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
Updated 04 October 2022

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault

UNRWA director visits Jenin refugee camp days after Israeli assault
  • Adam Bouloukos said: ‘I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation. I saw fear and concern in school children’s eyes’
  • He added that the current level of violence in the camp, and across the West Bank, is at the highest level the agency has seen in years

JERUSALEM: Adam Bouloukos, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s director in the West Bank, has visited Jenin refugee camp, the Palestine News and Info Agency reported on Monday.

His visit came just days after a large-scale Israeli military assault on the camp last Wednesday that left four people dead and 44 injured.

During his visit to the camp, Bouloukos was shown an UNRWA clinic that was hit by bullets during the attack, which took place while patients and medical staff were inside. It provides healthcare services to about 35,000 people. He also visited a UNRWA school, where he met students and teachers.

“I witnessed the extent of the damage caused by the recent Israeli military operation,” Bouloukos said. “I saw fear and concern in schoolchildren’s eyes.

“The level of violence in Jenin camp, and across the West Bank, is the highest we have seen in years. Many Palestinians, including refugees, were killed or injured. Violence only brings loss of life, grief for families and instability.

“All parties to the conflict should protect civilians, including Palestine refugees. UN staff and facilities and civilian infrastructure must be kept out of harm’s way. I specifically call on the Israeli security forces to limit the use of excessive force and spare the loss of civilian life in Jenin and across the West Bank.”