Air Force member dies after setting himself on fire outside Israeli Embassy

An active-duty U.S. Air Force member has died after he set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Sunday in an apparent protest of Israel’s actions in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, officials said. An Air Force spokesperson told CBS News on Monday the airman died Sunday night.

Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department identified the man as 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell, of San Antonio, Texas.

The man set himself on fire around 1 p.m. ET and both the U.S. Secret Service and the police department responded, the agencies said.

The embassy said in a statement to CBS News that no staff members were injured.

Police investigate the crime scene after a man set himself on fire in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25, 2024.
Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images

MPD also investigated a “suspicious vehicle” it said may be connected to the man who set himself on fire, but that vehicle was cleared around 4 p.m.

In a video that was livestreamed on Twitch, the man identified himself and said he was an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force confirmed an active duty airman was involved, but did not identify him.

Prior to setting himself on fire, the man said he would “no longer be complicit in genocide” and that he was “about to engage in an extreme act of protest.” After setting himself on fire, he yelled “free Palestine” repeatedly.

The Twitch channel has since been removed, but Talia Jane, an independent reporter who received a link to the video earlier Sunday, archived the video and shared it with CBS News.

This is the second time someone has set themselves on fire outside an Israeli facility in the U.S. since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. 

A protester set themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta last December. A Palestinian flag was found at the scene after what police referred to as an “extreme act of political protest,” according to the BBC.

More than four months after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the death toll in Gaza is nearing 30,000, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.  

Sunday’s incident comes less than a week after the United States vetoed a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, although negotiations to broker a temporary cease-fire to facilitate the further release of hostages are ongoing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also continued to defend his military’s actions in Gaza.

While the State Department twice in December bypassed Congress to approve emergency weapons sales to Israel, President Biden has become more critical of Israel’s tactics in recent weeks, at one point calling Israel’s response in Gaza “over the top.” Mr. Biden has also urged Netanyahu to refrain from a ground assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians have already sought refuge from the fighting, unless Israel had a “credible” plan to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians.

Netanyahu, however, seemed intent on launching a ground assault on Rafah, saying Sunday on “Face the Nation” that such an operation would mean, “the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion.”

The leaders of several countries have accused Israel of carrying out a genocide in Gaza, with South Africa bringing a case before the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. In a January interim judgment, then-ICJ President Joan E. Donoghue refused Israel’s request to dismiss the case. The court found it had jurisdiction to consider the case, noting there were plausible claims Israel could be committing genocidal acts. The court, however, did not order a cease-fire.

Netanyahu has denied any claims of genocide, saying after the court’s interim ruling the allegation is “not only false, it’s outrageous.”

Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.

Jordan Freiman

Jordan Freiman is an editor and writer for He covers breaking news, trending stories, sports and crime. Jordan has previously worked at Spin and Death and Taxes.

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