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US airman sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy

WASHINGTON (AFP)An active member of the US Air Force set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on Sunday, officials said, as media reported he was protesting the war in Gaza.

Emergency responders rushed to the scene just before 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) in response to a “call for person on fire outside the Israeli Embassy,” according to a message on X, formerly Twitter, by the capital’s fire department.

In this image taken from video, police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, after an active-duty member of the US Air Force was critically injured after setting himself ablaze outside the diplomatic compound. PHOTO: AP

They arrived to find that officers from the Secret Service — the US law enforcement agency tasked with protecting US political leaders, visiting heads of state and others — had already extinguished the fire.

The man was transported to hospital with “critical life threatening injuries,” the fire department said.

An Air Force spokesperson confirmed to AFP that he was an active member of the Air Force, but gave no further details.

A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured in the incident, and that the man was “unknown” to them.

US media reported that the man apparently livestreamed himself on Twitch, wearing fatigues and declaring he will “not be complicit in genocide” before dousing himself in liquid.

He then lit himself on fire while yelling “Free Palestine!” until he fell on the ground.

AFP has been unable to immediately verify the footage, with the New York Times reporting that it was removed from Twitch.

The shocking act came as protests are increasing across the United States against Israel’s attacks in Gaza.

With the death toll in Gaza nearing 30,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there, international pressure has been increasing on the United States to rein its ally Israel in and call for a ceasefire.

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