US airman dies after setting himself on fire outside Israeli embassy, in apparent Gaza protest

US airman dies after setting himself on fire outside Israeli embassy, in apparent Gaza protest


Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, set himself on fire after calling Gaza war "genocide"

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A US Air Force airman who set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington in an apparent act of protest against the war in Gaza has died, the military and local police said on Monday.

Senior Airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, a cyber defense operations specialist with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron, died from injuries sustained in the incident, the Air Force said in a statement.

"When a tragedy like this occurs, every member of the Air Force feels it," US Air Force Colonel Celina Noyes said in the statement. "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."

Officer Lee Lepe, a spokesperson for the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, confirmed the death.

The Pentagon said the death was a "tragic event" and that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was following the situation.

Bushnell was initially hospitalized in critical condition after US Secret Service officers put out the flames on Sunday, D.C. Fire and EMS said earlier. Bushnell, wearing military fatigues, broadcast the incident live over the internet.

"I will no longer be complicit in genocide," the man said before dousing himself in a clear liquid and setting himself on fire, screaming "Free Palestine," according to a video seen by Reuters.

"We express our heartfelt condolences and full solidarity with the family and friends of the American pilot Aaron Bushnell, who immortalized his name as a defender of human values and the plight of the Palestinian people, who are oppressed by the American administration and its unjust policies," Hamas said in a post on Telegram Messenger.

The incident comes amid ongoing pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protests in the United States following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that killed 1,200 Israelis and seized 253 hostages in a cross-border attack.

Israeli forces then launched a military campaign against the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, destroying much of the coastal enclave, with nearly 30,000 people confirmed killed, according to Palestinian health officials.

Israel's embassies have drawn continued protest against the war. In December, a woman protesting the war set herself on fire outside the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta.