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‘Genocide of Palestine’: US Airman Sets Himself on Fire Outside Israeli Embassy

25-year-old Aaron Bushnell succumbed to his injuries after his "protest against the genocide of Palestinian people."

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A young man serving in the United States Air Force performed an act of self-immolation, setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on Sunday, 25 February, to protest against Israel’s "genocide" in Gaza.

The airman, identified as 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell from San Antonio, Texas, succumbed to his injuries, as confirmed by the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington DC on Monday, 26 February.

In an official statement, the Air Force announced on Monday:

“The individual involved in yesterday’s incident succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night.”

The Air Force has stated that further information will be provided once military officials have completed the process of notifying Bushnell's next of kin.

According to the US Department of Defense, active-duty service members are advised against engaging in political activities. They are prohibited from wearing their uniform during “unofficial public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies, or any public demonstration which may imply sanction or endorsement by [the Defense Department] or the Military Service.”

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The Chain of Events 

Bushnell was stationed in San Antonio and originally from Cape Cod in Massachusetts. After joining the Air Force as an active-duty member in May 2020, he worked in information technology and development operations. However, on his LinkedIn page, he said that he was looking to “transition out of the US Air Force into software engineering.”

Washington DC’s Emergency Medical Services reported on X that they had transported an adult male in critical condition to a hospital after responding to an incident outside the Israeli embassy at 12:58 pm on Sunday. They claimed that the fire had been extinguished by US Secret Service members present on the scene.

“Before the Secret Service officers could engage, [Bushnell] doused himself with an unidentified liquid and set himself on fire. The Secret Service officers promptly intervened, extinguishing the flames before the arrival of the fire department. [Bushnell] was subsequently transported to a local hospital due to the burns sustained from the incident. The report states that Bushnell was pronounced dead at 10:06 p.m. on Sunday.”
Statement from US Secret Service

Secret Service spokesperson Joe Routh said that officers of its uniformed division had previously received calls regarding what seemed like "an individual was experiencing a possible medical/mental health emergency."

Prior to his public identification, spokespersons for the US Air Force told CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post that the man who set himself on fire was an active-duty airman.

The Washington Post reported that before his self-immolation, Bushnell reportedly sent a message to media outlets. He said, "Today, I am planning to engage in an extreme act of protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people."

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On Sunday morning, Bushnell had taken to Facebook and wrote: "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 post included a link to a live stream of his protest on the web-broadcasting platform Twitch, which took down the video for violations of its community guidelines and terms of service.

"I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I’m about to engage in an extreme act of protest," the airman repeated while walking toward the driveway of the Israeli embassy.

"But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal."

After Bushnell covered himself with liquid and reached for his lighter, reports say that unidentified law enforcement or security officers could be heard simply asking him, "Can I help you?" After setting himself aflame, Bushnell repeatedly shouted, "Free Palestine."

Bushnell’s act was not the first self-immolation in apparent protest of the Israel-Hamas war.

In December, a woman lit herself on fire in front of the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta in what police described as an act of “extreme political protest” over the war. The woman survived but sustained third-degree burns over her entire body and was hospitalized in critical condition. Her identity has not been released by the police. A 61-year-old Army veteran who worked as a security guard at the consulate suffered severe burns when he attempted to save the woman.

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Topics:  Gaza   Gaza Strip   self immolation 

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