US airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, screams ‘Free Palestine’ before setting himself on fire in protest over Gaza war

26 February 2024, 09:00

The protester identified himself as Aaron Bushnell, 25
The protester identified himself as Aaron Bushnell, 25. Picture: Social Media/Getty

By Asher McShane

A serving member of the US Air Force set himself ablaze on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC in a protest over the war in Gaza.

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Aaron Bushnell’s horrific protest was captured on camera - after he posted a video walking to the scene where he set out his reasons for his ‘extreme act of protest.’

He screamed ‘Free Palestine’ repeatedly before succumbing to the flames. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

During the short video, a man asks ‘Hi Sir, can I help you?’ As the airman douses himself in a flammable substance.

He lights the fluid and the flames take hold, with the protester collapsing moments later.

Mr Bushnell said he "will no longer be complicit in genocide" before he carried out the protest.

Police at the scene after the protest
Police at the scene after the protest. Picture: Getty

Before his death he posted online: "“Many of us like to ask ourselves, “What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide? The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now."

Police and security staff rush over to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher but it was too late.

The video was broadcast live on Twitter but was removed from the platform, but law enforcement officials have obtained and reviewed a copy.

He set himself on fire at around 1pm on Sunday outside the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Mr Bushnell set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC
Mr Bushnell set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. Picture: Getty

“My name is Aaron Bushnell,' he tells the camera, “I am an active duty member of the United States Air Force and I will no longer be complicit in genocide.

“I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest, 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.”

The incident happened as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the cabinet approval for a military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah while a temporary ceasefire deal is being negotiated.

Israel has adamantly denied genocide allegations and says it is carrying out operations in accordance with international law in the Israel-Hamas war.

In December, a person self-immolated outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta and used gasoline as an accelerant, according to Atlanta's fire authorities.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington said its officers had responded to the scene outside the Israeli Embassy to assist US Secret Service officers and that its bomb squad had also been called to examine a suspicious vehicle.

Police said no hazardous materials were found in the vehicle.