US military officer sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

Israeli embassy
Police are investigating the fire outside the embassy - Getty

A US Air Force officer who set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC in protest against the war in Gaza has died of his injuries.

Officials named the 25-year-old airman as Aaron Bushnell, of San Antonio, Texas.

Mr Bushnell was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries on Sunday afternoon after being filmed standing outside the embassy wearing a military uniform and shouting ‘‘Free Palestine’’ as he burned.

Law enforcement officials said they believed he had started a livestream on Twitch, set his phone down and then doused himself in accelerant and ignited the flames.

The video was later removed from the platform, but law enforcement officials have obtained and reviewed a copy.

Firefighters and US secret service officers were called to the scene in northwest Washington at around 1pm Eastern Time.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy said the man had “set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington and was taken to the hospital by ambulance”.

The embassy has seen months of protests following the Israeli military response in Gaza to a terror attack by Hamas on October 7.

However, The Telegraph understands the man was not carrying a placard or sign.

One eyewitness told The Telegraph he was “mumbling something” in the moments before he set himself on fire. “He didn’t arrive with any signs or banners or anything,” they said.

A spokesman for the US Secret Service said: “The US Secret Service, Uniformed Division responded to the 3400 Block of International Drive, NW, DC regarding an individual that was experiencing a possible medical/mental health emergency.

“DC Fire & EMS responded to the scene and treated the individual prior to transport to an area hospital.”

Since the outbreak of war in Gaza last year, the US capital has seen regular organised and informal protests outside the Israeli embassy and White House.

In December, police in Atlanta confirmed a man had engaged in an “extreme act of political protest” when he set himself on fire outside that city’s Consulate General of Israel. 

Officials said at the time that a Palestinian flag was recovered from the scene and that a security guard was also injured when he tried to help the protester.

A March for Israel and March for Gaza in November and January respectively brought thousands to Washington to protest against the actions of Hamas and the Israeli military.

Footage posted on social media on Sunday showed several police and fire vehicles gathered outside the Israeli embassy, where the lawn has been decorated with Israeli flags.

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