US airman dies after setting himself on fire at Israeli embassyon February 26, 2024 at 7:18 pm

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Secret Service agents extinguished the flames during the incident on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the US Secret Service on a street leading to the Israeli Embassy in WashingtonImage source, Getty Images

A US airman has died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC.

The man was identified by police as Aaron Bushnell, 25, of San Antonio, Texas.

Officers from the US Secret Service extinguished the flames before the man was taken to hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Before setting himself on fire, he said he would “no longer be complicit in genocide”.

In a video aired live on a streaming site, Twitch, the man identified himself and said he was a serving member of the Air Force.

He said he was “about to engage in an extreme act of protest.” After setting himself on fire, he repeatedly shouted “free Palestine”.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington said that it was “not confirming the authenticity of the video”.

No embassy staff members were injured in the incident, said a spokeswoman for the embassy.

The incident happened at 13:00 local time (18:00 GMT) on Sunday. A bomb disposal unit was sent to the site over concerns about a suspicious vehicle that could have been connected to the individual.

This was later declared safe after no hazardous materials were found.

Washington police said officers were working with the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the incident.

Mr Bushnell was taken to the hospital in a critical condition.

The Air Force would not confirm details of Mr Bushnell’s service, citing family notification policies.

Before setting himself alight, Mr Bushnell emailed a number of reporters and left-wing and anarchist news websites. The Atlanta Community Press Collective, a group that received the email, provided a copy to the BBC.

“Today, I am planning to engage in an extreme act of protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people,” the email reads, warning it would be “highly disturbing.”

The Israel-Gaza war erupted on 7 October last year when Hamas gunmen infiltrated southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage.

Israel responded by launching a military campaign in Gaza, during which 29,300 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

As of mid-January, 1.9 million civilians in Gaza have been displaced amid Israel’s military operations, according to the United Nations, accounting for 85% of its population.

In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the offensive in the face of international criticism, saying America would be “doing a hell of a lot more” if it had suffered such an attack.

It is not the first time someone has set themselves on fire in front of an Israeli diplomatic mission in the US.

In December, a protester self-immolated in front of the Israeli consulate in the US state of Georgia.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, police said.

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