BEIRUT — Customers and security staff at a BLOM bank branch in southern Lebanon's Saida scuffled on Monday, the first day banks reopened following a more than weeklong closure due to a series of bank holdups this month, L'Orient Today's correspondent in the region reported.
A video filmed by our correspondent shows a man shouting in front of the bank's premises and shoving the door in an apparent attempt to enter the building. Security staff were seen pushing him away. Men in State Security uniforms were also present at the scene, some appearing to stand idly while others tried to remove the customer. According to our correspondent, the bank had been letting customers in "one by one" due to security measures.
In general, the banks remained closed in Saida Monday morning, our correspondent reported. The few branches that opened were reportedly employing strict security measures, such as the Société Générale de Banque au Liban (SGBL), which opened Monday but was only processing banking transactions presented in advance. Meanwhile, a branch of the Banque Libano-Française (BLF) decided to let in only one customer every half hour.
In Saida and its surroundings Monday morning, four branches of Bank Audi remained closed; only one appeared open in Hisba, south of the city. Some customers complained about the closure of ATMs, in front of which people have crowded.
The day before, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) announced that the banks would resume work starting Monday, but would adapt their procedures to the security context following a spate of bank holdups earlier this month by angry depositors hoping to seize their own funds. A banking source also confirmed to L'Orient-Le Jour that at least one of the country's banks has armed its security staff, while another has hired a private armed protection company.
In the wake of the ABL's decision, the lawyers' collective Mouttahidoun ("United" in Arabic) warned that it would take "action" against the "abuses of the banks." According to the group, Lebanon's banks "have no qualms about stealing from [depositors] ... driven by unprecedented greed and authoritarianism."
Reporting contributed by Muntasser Abdallah