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

An active-duty member of the US Air Force who set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, on Sunday, has died, authorities said.

Aaron Bushnell, 25, said in a video of the incident obtained by CNN that he would “no longer be complicit in genocide” and that his suffering was minimal compared to that of Palestinians as the humanitarian crisis persists in Gaza.

He then sets the recording device on the ground before pouring an unknown liquid over himself and igniting it while yelling “Free Palestine” repeatedly. He eventually collapses as police officers rush to douse the flames with fire extinguishers.

He was subsequently transported by DC Fire and emergency services to a local hospital where he died, the Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement. Local police are working with the US Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the incident, which took place around 1 p.m. in northwest Washington.

Bushnell’s identity was confirmed by MPD on Sunday. The Air Force also confirmed his identity Monday and said he was a cyber defense operations specialist assigned to the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Wing. He served with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron and had been on active duty since May 2020, according to the Air Force.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Airman Bushnell. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we ask that you respect their privacy during this difficult time,” said Col. Celina Noyes, the commander of the 70th ISR Wing, in a statement.

The 70th ISR Wing gathers intelligence across air, space and cyberspace, according to its website, working alongside the National Security Agency in supporting intelligence needs across the Air Force and the military.

A spokesperson from the Israeli Embassy said no embassy staff were injured in the incident.

In December, a person set themselves on fire outside the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta in what police said was “likely an extreme act of political protest.” A Palestinian flag that was part of the protest was recovered at the scene, and gasoline was used as an accelerant, police and fire officials told reporters at a news conference.

Israel is waging war against Hamas in Gaza, after the group’s October 7 terror attacks that killed 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli authorities. The response has killed nearly 30,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Rafael Romo, Jaide Timm-Garcia, Shawn Nottingham, Avery Lotz and Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.

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