US airman dies after setting himself on fire outside Israeli embassy in Washington

Active member of Air Force succumbs to wounds from self-immolation apparently in protest of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, livestreamed on gaming platform Twitch

In this image taken from video, police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Feb. 25, 2024, after an active-duty member of the US Air Force was critically injured after setting himself ablaze outside the diplomatic compound. (WJLA via AP)
In this image taken from video, police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Feb. 25, 2024, after an active-duty member of the US Air Force was critically injured after setting himself ablaze outside the diplomatic compound. (WJLA via AP)

An active-duty member of the US Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, while declaring that he “will no longer be complicit in genocide.”

The 25-year-old airman, Aaron Bushnell, of San Antonio, Texas, died from his injuries, the Metropolitan Police Department said Monday.

Bushnell had walked up to the embassy shortly before 1 p.m. local time on Sunday and began livestreaming on the video streaming platform Twitch, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

At one point, he said he “will no longer be complicit in genocide,” the person said. He then lit himself on fire while yelling “Free Palestine!” until he fell on the ground.

The video was later removed from the platform, but law enforcement officials have obtained and reviewed a copy.

The person was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured in the incident, and that the man was unknown to them.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington said its officers had responded to the scene outside the Israeli Embassy to assist US Secret Service officers and that its bomb squad had also been called to examine a suspicious vehicle. Police said no hazardous materials were found in the vehicle.

In December, a person self-immolated outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta using gasoline as an accelerant, according to Atlanta’s fire authorities. A Palestinian flag was found at the scene, and the act was believed to be one of “extreme political protest.”

A screenshot from CCTV footage taken on December 1, 2023, across the street from the Israeli consulate in Atlanta where a protester with a Palestinian flag set themself on fire. (X/Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel launched a war against Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza following its October 7 massacre across southern Israel, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists went on a murderous rampage, killing over 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages into Gaza.

Israel has vehemently rejected the genocide allegations, saying its war is targeting Hamas, not the Palestinian people, following the terror group’s October 7 massacre.

It has held Hamas largely responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza, accusing the terror group of deliberately operating from civilian areas and using the local population as human shields.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Sunday, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Hamas was deeply “embedded” in Gazan civilian areas and that the military is fighting a complex war in the Palestinian enclave “with a heavy heart” and is “aware of the tragic loss of civilian lives on both sides.”

Hamas’s unverified figures point to around 30,000 Gazans killed in the war. Israel says at least 12,000 of those were terror operatives.

Israel has said the war would end if Hamas were to release the remaining hostages and surrender.

In his op-ed, Hagari said Hamas has systematically embedded its terror infrastructure inside and under civilian areas in Gaza as part of its human-shield strategy” and deliberately operates in civilian areas and humanitarian zones to stage attacks.

“IDF troops discovered that most homes in Gaza have terror tunnels underneath or weapon caches inside, and the majority of schools, mosques, hospitals and international institutions have been used by Hamas for their military operations,” he wrote.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years, “has forced Gazans to stay in active combat zones by blocking their attempts to move out of harm’s way. When civilians manage to reach the safer areas to which we guide them, Hamas then moves to those areas, turning humanitarian zones into staging areas for further attacks,” said Hagari.

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