US air force member dies after setting himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

<span>Police investigate after a man set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on 25 February.</span><span>Photograph: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images</span>
Police investigate after a man set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on 25 February.Photograph: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images

An active-duty member of the US air force has died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, while declaring he will “no longer be complicit in genocide”.

The man was identified as the 25-year-old airman Aaron Bushnell of San Antonio, Texas.

The Metropolitan police department said it responded to an incident on International Drive around 1pm on Sunday to assist the Secret Service.

A video posted online showed Bushnell in a uniform shouting “Free Palestine” as he burned while identifying himself as an active air force member. He was reportedly on fire for about a minute before law enforcement officers put it out.

Bushnell walked up to the embassy and began livestreaming on the video streaming platform Twitch, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. He set his phone down and then doused himself in a fluid and set it alight, saying at one point, he “will no longer be complicit in genocide” the source told AP. The video was later removed from the streaming platform.

An air force spokesperson confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Bushnell was an active member but gave no further details. A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured and the man was “unknown” to them.

A Facebook post attributed to Bushnell circulated on Twitter on Monday, reading: “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’ The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.” The authenticity of the post could not be immediately verified.

The police said an explosive ordinance disposal unit was called to the scene in relation to a suspicious vehicle possibly linked to the individual. No hazardous material was found.

The embassy has been the focus of protests by pro-Palestinian demonstrators calling for a ceasefire to the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, in which the claimed death toll appears likely to pass 30,000 this week. The offensive follows cross-border attacks in Israel by Hamas in 7 October that killed about 1,200 people and in which more than 200 people were taken hostage.

Israeli strikes have killed 29,692 Palestinians in Gaza since October, two-thirds of them women and children, and injured 69,879, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health service.

In a separate incident in December last year in Atlanta outside an Israeli consulate office, a protester set themselves on fire. The protester and a guard were hospitalized with burns.

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