Self-immolation of US airman outside Israeli Embassy tragic: Pentagon

February 27, 2024, 4:08 pm

WASHINGTON – The deadly self-immolation of a US airman outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington over the weekend was "very tragic," the Pentagon said Monday.

"It certainly is a tragic event. We do extend our condolences to the airman's family," Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters.

Aaron Bushnell, 25, an active-duty member of the US Air Force, set himself ablaze in front of Israel's diplomatic mission Sunday afternoon in protest of its ongoing war in the besieged Gaza Strip, and US support for the offensive. He was taken to a hospital but died.

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I’m about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal,” Bushnell said in a video recording that chronicled the fatal protest.

Bushnell can repeatedly be heard shouting "Free Palestine!" as flames engulf him before he collapses to the ground.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is "following the situation," Ryder said. Additional details are expected to be provided by the Air Force 24 hours after Bushnell's family is notified.

An investigation remains underway.

Bushnell is the second known person in the US to have lit themselves on fire in protest of the war on Gaza. Last December, a person set themself on fire outside the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia in protest.

Israel has launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 cross-border incursion by Hamas, killing more than 29,690 people and causing mass destruction and shortages of necessities. Nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas-led attack.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85 percent of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60 percent of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

Hostilities have continued unabated, however, and aid deliveries remain woefully insufficient to address the humanitarian catastrophe. (Anadolu)