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    Woman with toy gun grabs trapped savings from Beirut bank

    BEIRUT (AP) – A woman accompanied by activists and brandishing what she said was a toy pistol broke into a Beirut bank branch yesterday, taking USD13,000 from her trapped savings.

    Sali Hafez told the local Al-Jadeed TV that she needed the money to fund her sister’s cancer treatment. She said she had repeatedly visited the bank to ask for her money and was told she could only receive USD200 a month in Lebanese pounds. Hafez said the toy pistol belonged to her nephew.

    “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 interview. “I reached a point where I had nothing else to lose.”

    Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks have imposed strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency since 2019, tying up the savings of millions of people. About three-quarters of the population has slipped into poverty as the tiny Mediterranean country’s economy continues to spiral.

    Hafez 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 USD12,000.

    Hafez said she had a total of USD20,000 in savings trapped in that bank. She said she had already sold many of her personal belongings and had considered selling her kidney to fund her 23-year-old sister’s cancer treatment.

    Hafez said in a live-streamed video she posted on her Facebook account that she did not intend to do harm.

    Lebanese policemen enter a bank from a window broken by depositors. PHOTO: AP
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