US Air Force member dies after setting himself on fire to protest Israel's war on Gaza

Washington DC - An active member of the US Air Force set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on Sunday in what he called "an extreme act of protest" against Israel's war on Gaza.

Emergency services at the scene in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, where an active US Air Force member set himself on fire in protest at Israel's war on Gaza.
Emergency services at the scene in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, where an active US Air Force member set himself on fire in protest at Israel's war on Gaza.  © MANDEL NGAN / AFP

Emergency responders rushed to the scene just before 1:00 PM ET in response to a "call for person on fire outside the Israeli Embassy," according to a message on X by the Washington DC fire department.

They arrived to find that officers from the Secret Service had already extinguished the fire.

The man, who identified himself as Aaron Bushnell, was transported to hospital with "critical life threatening injuries," the fire department said.

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An Air Force spokesperson confirmed to AFP that he was an active member of the Air Force, but gave no further details. A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured in the incident, and that the man was "unknown" to them.

Bushnell reportedly livestreamed himself on Twitch, wearing fatigues and declaring he will "not be complicit in genocide" before dousing himself in liquid. He then lit himself on fire while yelling "Free Palestine!" until he fell on the ground.

The New York Times reported that the footage was removed from Twitch, but journalist Talia Jane reposted it on X, after saying she had received permission from Bushnell's loved ones.

The shocking act came as protests are increasing across the US against Israel's actions in Gaza, where it has been waging a brutal war since the October 7 by Hamas militants.

With the death toll in the strip nearing 30,000 and accusations growing of a potential genocide being committed, international pressure has been increasing on the US to rein its ally, whom it has been steadfastly supporting militarily and diplomatically.

UPDATE, February 26, 9:30 AM ET: Air Force member "succumbed to injuries"

An Air Force spokesperson on Monday morning confirmed that the airman believed to be Aaron Bushnell has died, without directly naming him.

"The individual involved in yesterday’s incident succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night," they said in a statement to Politico.

"We will provide additional details 24 hours after next of kin notifications are complete."

Cover photo: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

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