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BEIRUT: The Association of Banks has extended its strike throughout Lebanon until the beginning of next week.
Arab News has been informed that the decision was taken on the advice of caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi.
The banks closed on Monday following a series of holdups by a number of angry depositors who targeted branches and ended up receiving a sum of their deposits.
Banks are seeking safety assurances from the authorities so they can reopen. However, according to a security source, the plan of the Ministry of Interior to protect them “needs more time” to be implemented.
In the meantime, banks have decided to only receive customers who have prior appointments, and they may be inspected on arrival.
The association said the measures were to protect bank employees after a number of attacks. A trader who wanted to pay his debts, a woman who wanted to pay her sister’s medical bills, and a soldier have been among depositors who have broken into banks.
Banks in Lebanon have 20,000 employees which, taking their families into account, means that around 50,000 people are reliant on employment in the sector.
Head of the Bank Employees’ Union George Al-Hajj said members would abide by the association’s decision as it “is meant to financially, morally and physically protect employees and preserve their safety.”
Al-Hajj emphasized that “any attack on the dignity of any employee in the banking sector is an attack on the dignity of the union.”
He added that the recent detention and release of intruders would “encourage others to follow the same path, knowing that no one denies depositors their right to their frozen money.”
Al-Hajj said the holdups placed depositors against bank employees, adding: “This is not fair. If some depositors manage to retrieve their deposit by force, others do not want to choose this method, and this is also not fair.”
A Beirut court decided on Wednesday to release the two detainees in the case of the storming of BLOM Bank on Sept. 14.
A number of activists, and the families and friends of the detainees, had staged a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut.
Clashes also took place on Tuesday evening between the activists, the families of the detainees and security forces, which resulted in the injury of more than 10 activists and four soldiers, according to the Lebanese Army Command.
Economic expert Jassem Ajaqa said the closure of banks “constitutes a harmful blow and inevitably leads to a rise in the exchange rate.”
Ajaqa warned that “if the political authority does not initiate reform measures, things are heading for the worse, and we may reach a stage where the central bank, Banque du Liban, loses its ability to curb the dollar’s rise.”

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