Serving US Air Force member sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy in ‘genocide’ protest

Graphic video of incident shows man yelling ‘I will no longer be complicit in genocide’

Shweta Sharma,Katie Hawkinson
Monday 26 February 2024 05:13 GMT
US Secret Service vehicles block access to a street leading to the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC on February 25, 2024. A man reportedly set himself on fire near the embassy on Sunday afternoon
US Secret Service vehicles block access to a street leading to the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC on February 25, 2024. A man reportedly set himself on fire near the embassy on Sunday afternoon (AFP via Getty Images)

A man who set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on Sunday in an apparent protest against the Gaza war is a serving member of the US Air Force, a spokesperson confirmed.

The US Air Force serviceman suffered life-threatening injuries and remains in critical condition at a hospital.

The man filmed his protest and livestreamed the video on social media platform Twitch shortly before 1pm local time on Sunday.

The graphic footage shows him shouting “I will no longer be complicit in genocide” and “I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest” as he stood in front of the embassy gates.

He then kept his phone down to film himself pouring a clear liquid from a metal bottle and setting himself alight. He also shouts “Free Palestine!” before falling to the ground.

Law enforcement officers then approached the man and successfully put out the flames. The fire was extinguished by members of the uniformed division of the US Secret Service, a spokesperson told The Independent.

The video was removed from Twitch as the platform stated that it violated its guidelines. But police said they have obtained and reviewed a copy.

A bomb disposal unit was dispatched to the location due to suspicions surrounding a questionable vehicle potentially linked to the individual in question. Officials later cleared the suspicious vehicle and found no hazardous materials inside.

The incident comes amid growing protests against Israel across the country as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign since 7 October last year to eradicate Hamas has taken a huge toll on civilian lives in Gaza. Israel’s four-month military operation has devastated the Gaza Strip, with more than 29,000 Palestinians killed according to the local health ministry.

The onslaught that began after an attack by Hamas rebels that killed at least 1,200 people has intensified the humanitarian crisis in the enclave with reports of widespread starvation, disease and exhausted medical resources, prompting international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire.

No embassy staff members were hurt in the incident, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington told the New York Times.

A statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry said that the individual involved was not recognised by embassy staff.

It appeared to be the second instance of self-immolation outside an Israeli mission in a matter of months. A protester set themselves on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, the Associated Press reported in December. Authorities later found a Palestinian flag at the scene.

Israel has denied the allegations of carrying out genocide in Gaza and said its actions in the Israel-Hamas war were in accordance with international law.

Mr Netanyahu is now seeking cabinet approval to expand a ground offensive into the southern Gazan city of Rafah while a temporary ceasefire deal is being negotiated.

He said on X that he would convene his cabinet next week for approval of the operation in Rafah, where around 1.5 million displaced people are crammed into tents.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.

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