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Washington D.C.- The airman who set himself on fire at the gates of the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. Sunday afternoon has died. Metropolitan Police Department identified the man as 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell from San Antonio. The U.S. Air Force later confirmed that he was an active-duty airman. 

“I will no longer be complicit in genocide,” Bushnell said as he live-streamed while walking up to the Israeli embassy. “I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest,” he continued, “But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all.”

Bushnell then poured a flammable liquid over his head and ignited the blaze. Once engulfed by the flames he was heard shouting, “Free Palestine.”

Ann Stefanek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Airforce, told Politico, “The individual involved in yesterday’s incident succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night. We will provide additional details 24 hours after next of kin notifications are complete.”

This is the second act of self-immolation in the U.S. regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

In December at the Consulate General of Israel in Atlanta, a woman set herself on fire. A Palestinian flag was found on the scene leading officials to call it “an extreme act of political protest.”

Growing Number of Pro-Palestinian Protests

The majority of protests in support of the Palestinian people are peaceful and do not end in such extreme measures. While the self-immolation outside the Israeli embassy is rare, most are attempts to persuade government bodies to support an abandonment of Israeli presence in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Thousands of people have gathered in places near and far to call for a ceasefire from Israeli forces. Supporters often take to the streets to make their voices heard. In the past few days, numerous protests have occurred around the world in places like Chicago and Yemen. In London, roughly 250,000 people have participated in protests demanding a ceasefire.

The death toll in Gaza is nearing at least 30,000. Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of blocking humanitarian aid efforts in Gaza. On January 26, the U.N. ordered Israel to take effective measures to ensure basic services and aid are provided to the people of Gaza. They gave Israel a month to comply with these measures.

Omar Shakir with Human Rights Watch said, “The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving aid.”

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Demands for Ceasefire

Despite the growing death toll of Palestinian civilians and an increase in peace efforts from Allied forces, Israel has not eased their presence in Gaza. 

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are inconsistent with international law. This overturned a Trump administration decision from 2019.

The U.S. and Israel, along with Egypt and Qatar, have been in talks to secure a ceasefire deal.

Delegates from the involved countries met in Paris to create a plan that could potentially see the release of hostages and a temporary ceasefire. “The United States’s position is clear,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to CNN. “We would like to see that temporary ceasefire which will alleviate the suffering of the people in the Gaza strip,” he continued.  

Negotiating parties will have to get Hamas officials to agree to the newly proposed deal. Previously, Hamas has denied negotiations because they want to see a permanent ceasefire, not a temporary one. 

Egyptian officials have been in direct contact with Hamas and reported that they have altered their negotiation demands. They are no longer seeking an immediate truce but are open to arranging one before the holy month of Ramadan. They have also lowered the number of Palestinian prisoners they wish to see released in exchange for the remaining Israeli hostages.

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