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US Air Force Member Dies After Self-Immolation Protest Outside Israeli Embassy in DC, Advocating for Palestinian Freedom

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force who set himself ablaze Sunday outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., while shouting “free Palestine,” has died, a U.S. official confirmed to NBC News.

The airman was identified as Aaron Bushnell, 25, of San Antonio, Texas, D.C. police said.

Bushnell, wearing military fatigues, walked up to the embassy shortly before 1 p.m. and began livestreaming on the video streaming platform Twitch. Law enforcement officials believe the man started a livestream, set his phone down and then doused himself in accelerant and ignited the flames, the Associated Press reported.

In video obtained by NBC News, the airman calmly walks up to the Israeli Embassy and says he’s about to engage in an extreme act of protest against what he calls an act of genocide against the Palestinian people.

The video shows him dumping liquid from a water bottle over his head and then lighting himself on fire.

He repeatedly shouts “free Palestine,” burns for about a minute and collapses on the ground before a U.S. Secret Service officer begins to extinguish the fire, the video shows. Joe Routh, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman, said officers had responded to reports of a person experiencing a possible medical or mental health emergency.

He was taken to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries. A U.S. official told NBC News on Monday that the airman succumbed to his injuries and died. More information would be released 24 hours after the military finishes notifying his next of kin, the official said.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Department said its officers had responded to the scene outside the Israeli Embassy to assist U.S. 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.

The Israeli Embassy said in a statement to NBC News that the “man is unknown.” No embassy staff were injured.

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 cease-fire deal is being negotiated. Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, however, has drawn criticisms, including genocide claims against the Palestinians.

Israel has adamantly denied the 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. A Palestinian flag was found at the scene, and the act was believed to be one of “extreme political protest.”

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