BEIRUT — People set fire to several banks Thursday in Beirut's Badaro neighborhood, a member of The Depositors' Cry group, Alaa Khorchid, told L'Orient Today, adding that his group was behind the action. Protesters ransacked several other banks in Tripoli, while others closed roads in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, and the army entered Saida as a "preemptive" measure.
These tensions come amid a looming hike in the price of fuel and the lira's continued plunge to record lows, trading above LL80,000 against the dollar on the parallel market.
At least six banks — Fransabank, Bank Audi, Creditbank Byblos Bank, BBAC and Banque Libano-Française — were set on fire in Badaro, while demonstrators threw stones and broke the fronts of other establishments.
According to L'Orient Le-Jour's correspondent, firefighters were trying to put out the blaze in BBAC bank. Riot police were also deployed on the scene. Several dozen protestors gathered in front of the banks.
"I broke my hand but my bank wouldn't give me my money so I could get treatment," Ferial Karout, a 52-year-old nurse who was among the protesters, told L'Orient-Le Jour.
One local resident, however, disagreed with Thursday's action. "What they [the protesters] are doing is very futile because it is not the banks that are responsible [for the crisis] but the politicians. They need to go after the politicians."
"What is happening today is very normal. It is an emotional reaction," said lawyer and activist Ali Abbas, who was present at the scene. "The banks are always working for those who are protected. But it is the ordinary people who are paying the price of all the decisions being made," he added.
Around noon, the demonstrators left the Badaro neighborhood. Some of them, affiliated with the Depositors' Cry group, held a sit-in in Horch Tabet, a suburb of Beirut, in front of the home of Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) head Selim Sfeir, Khorchid told L’Orient Le-Jour.
According to our photographer, some protestors set the residence's entrance on fire before being forced away by policemen.
In Tripoli, angry protesters ransacked several banks, according to our correspondent in the region. At least one group of demonstrators started a fire in front of a Bank Audi branch.
Anger was also mounting elsewhere in the country. A road was blocked in the Mecharrafiyeh neighborhood in Beirut's southern suburbs, an eyewitness told L'Orient Today.
In the Bekaa, demonstrators blocked the main road in Taalbaya on Thursday in both directions, decrying the deterioration of living standards and the lira's continued freefall, according to our correspondent in the region.
Roads linking the villages of Qsarnaba and Bednayel to Baalbeck and Qsarnaba, as well as Temnine to Zahleh were also blocked with burnt tires. The road linking Ablah to Bednayel was earlier blocked on Wednesday night.
In the South, the army was deployed in Saida and its suburbs as a "preemptive" measure, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Lebanese banks have been on an open strike for the past 10 days, with only their ATMs remaining operational.
Banks have been imposing illegal restrictions on customers since the economic crisis began in Lebanon in 2019, limiting withdrawals and transfers. In recent months, the country has seen a wave of bank holdups in which depositors, sometimes armed, have broken into branches to claim their own funds.
Additional reporting by Mohammad Yassin, Michel Hallak and Sarah Abdallah