Mon 26 Feb 2024 2:38 pm - Jerusalem Time

An American officer sets himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington

A US Air Force officer set himself on fire Sunday afternoon outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. US Air Force spokeswoman Anne Stefanik confirmed on Sunday evening that the man was an active-duty pilot.

Vito Maggiolo, spokesman for the city's fire department (Washington), said that US Secret Service officers extinguished the fire outside the embassy, in northwest Washington, around one o'clock in the afternoon. The man was taken to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries and remains in critical condition.

No embassy employees were injured, and everyone has been identified, according to an Israeli embassy spokeswoman.

The man filmed the protest and broadcast it live on the social media platform Twitch at a time when police said they responded to the incident. American media could not confirm who was behind the account that posted the video, but the video showed a man walking toward the Israeli embassy in Washington.

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” a man said in the video, echoing language used by opponents of Israeli military action in Gaza to describe the campaign. “I am about to participate in an intense protest action.”

Standing outside the embassy gates, he put his phone down to film himself dousing himself with a clear liquid from a metal bottle. Then he set himself on fire while shouting, "Free Palestine!" Until he fell to the ground.

The video showed law enforcement officers approaching him shortly before the fire broke out. One of them can be heard off camera saying: "Can I help you, sir?" Officers then raced for more than a minute to put out the flames.

The video was removed Sunday afternoon and replaced with a message stating that the channel violated Twitch's guidelines. This was the only video posted on the account that had the Palestinian flag as its main image.

In the video, the man was wearing a military uniform, and the name he used matched a LinkedIn profile of an active-duty Air Force officer based in Texas.

Police also investigated a nearby suspicious vehicle for explosives, but Sean Hickman, a police spokesman, said the scene had been cleared by 4 p.m. Secret Service officers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit in Washington to investigate the incident.

Protests against Israel have become an almost daily occurrence across the country since Israel began its devastating war on the besieged Gaza Strip following attacks by Hamas militants last October 7.

International calls for a ceasefire for humanitarian reasons have increased in recent months as the humanitarian crisis has worsened. The embassy has been the site of ongoing protests against the war on Gaza as the civilian death toll in the devastated Strip continues to rise, with more than 29,000 people killed, most of them women and children, according to local officials in the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Protests sometimes led to arrests, but rarely violence. Last December, a demonstrator burned himself in front of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, in what police said was “most likely an act of extremist political protest.”


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An American officer sets himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington