This Woman Held Up a Bank With a Toy Gun to Withdraw Her Own Money

Sali Hafiz said she stormed the bank to help pay for her sister’s cancer treatment. It’s the latest incident of people holding up banks to withdraw their savings in crisis-hit Lebanon.
sali hafiz beirut bank
PHOTO: ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images

A Lebanese woman stormed a local bank branch waving a “plastic gun” so she could withdraw $13,000 of her own savings in Beirut on Wednesday morning, saying it was to pay for her sister’s cancer treatment.  

It is the latest in a string of hostage-taking incidents this year in Lebanon where people have threatened bank staff with violence in order to access their own money


People in Lebanon are only allowed to withdraw around $200 to $400 per month because of limits set by the banks, barely enough to cover basic necessities. 

Lebanon continues to struggle with an economic meltdown that has plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty. 

The woman, Sali Hafiz, leapt onto the counter and demanded her savings after storming the bank with men from a group calling itself the “Depositors Outcry Association.”

Video of the incident was shared widely on social media in Lebanon, which shows Hafiz pulling out a pistol as the men argue with the bank employees. Bank workers can be seen hurriedly counting out bank notes and handing over a bundle of US dollar bills to Hafiz. 

Hafiz live-streamed the video on Facebook, saying, “I did not break into the bank to kill anyone or set the place on fire. I am here to get my rights.” In an interview with local broadcaster Al Jadeed News, she said that the weapon was a toy gun she had borrowed from her nephew. 

She also said that the bank left her without a choice, and that she took out the money for her sister’s medical expenses, who needs treatment for cancer. She claimed that she had previously asked the bank for money but had been told she could only get hold of the $200 monthly allowance. 


Hafiz is yet to be arrested by Lebanese security forces. 

Wednesday’s incident comes only a month after Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein held up a Beirut bank, and was subsequently hailed a local hero. He was briefly arrested but never faced criminal charges. Hussein also needed the money to pay for cancer treatment, in that instance for his father, and took over $35,000 of his savings after an hours-long siege, in which he threatened hostages with a rifle and a tank of gasoline.

The state-run news agency National News Agency of Lebanon reported Wednesday’s story differently, saying that Hafiz poured gasoline on herself and threatened to set herself on fire if staff failed to give her $20,000 from her savings account.

Hafiz posted on her personal Facebook account after the siege, saying she was going to Turkey. She wrote: “The whole government is under my house, and I’m at the airport, see you all in Istanbul, Ciao!”