A woman robbed a Beirut bank with a toy gun on Wednesday to withdraw thousands of dollars of her family’s savings to pay for cancer treatment for her sick sister, a desperate move that many in economically devastated Lebanon applauded.
For the last three years, the bank accounts of Beirut residents have been devalued as the currency plunged, with banks refusing to release customers' funds as the country deals with a crushing economic spiral.
Sali Hafiz, 28, live-streamed herself on Facebook using a toy gun to force the Beirut branch of Blom Bank to hand over $13,000 of her family’s savings, screaming at staff to release the money as the bank’s door were sealed shut, AFP reported.
“I am Sali Hafiz, I came today… to take the deposits of my sister who is dying in hospital,” she is heard saying in the video. “I did not come to kill anyone or to start a fire… I came to claim my rights.”
According to AFP, gasoline was also dumped inside the bank during the robbery that reportedly lasted less than an hour.
In a subsequent interview with a Lebanese station, Hafiz said she was able to get around $13,000 of the $20,000 her family had in savings with the bank. She said that cancer care for her sister was running at $50,000.
Hafiz said that the toy gun she used during the heist belonged to her nephew.
She had accomplishes during the daring robbery and they escaped through a broken window in the back of the bank before police arrived.
Hafiz was still on the run as of Wednesday, her relatives said. There were rumors that she had left the country but Lebanon’s General Security agency said they were untrue.
After streaming the robbery, Hafiz was turned into a folk hero by Lebanese social media users who also have experienced desperation at having their savings locked up and inaccessible, with many accusing banks of operating in tandem as a cartel to the detriment of customers.