Hundreds mourn US airman who self-immolated at Israeli Embassy in protest of Gaza war

Hundreds mourn US airman who self-immolated at Israeli Embassy in protest of Gaza war

'His message needs to get out. And we also need to make sure that we are supporting anybody else that's like Aaron,' says former Army intelligence officer

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - Hundreds of people came to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. Monday evening to collectively mourn the US airman who died after setting himself ablaze in protest of Israel's ongoing war in Gaza.

Many hoped that the death of Aaron Bushnell, 25, an active-duty member of the US Air Force, would spark change in US President Joe Biden's hitherto unwavering support for the war.

Leah, a Palestinian American who declined to provide her last name, told Anadolu that she believed it was important for her to attend the vigil "to show solidarity and support with those who are taking extreme acts of resistance that shows their solidarity and support with Palestine and our people."

Asked if she believed Bushnell's death would change the course of the war, she said, "That's the hope."

Bushnell set himself ablaze in front of Israel’s Embassy on 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 from the injuries he sustained.

“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 went viral on social media.

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

A Secret Service officer estimated that "at its peak," the vigil mourning his death attracted over 300 people. The gathering lasted for over three hours with an average of over 100 people there at any given point.

Josephine Guilbeau, a former Army intelligence officer, told Anadolu that she flew out from Ohio for the vigil, because she believes Bushnell's "death cannot be in vain."

"His message needs to get out. And we also need to make sure that we are supporting anybody else that's like Aaron, that's having these same feelings, because how are we supposed to deal with a genocide?" she asked rhetorically.

"We've never seen anything like this before in our lives, and our government just expects that the American people are going to watch this unfold for five months now, and there aren't going to be any mental issues. Of course, there's mental issues across the board. Anybody with access to the Internet is watching a genocide unfold in modern day time," added Guilbeau.

Jenny Rosemary, a 22-year-old resident of Annandale, Virginia, said Bushnell's fatal protest "was an extreme act, but an act of morality."

"I think we should all hope to be that brave," Rosemary said. "I think to get to this point, it's taken a lot of ignorance on behalf of the US government...They can't have missed all the videos of people suffering and the deaths, you know, but I'd like to think that one of their own kind, you know, someone who's in the military, that hopefully will change something."

Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by the Palestinian group Hamas, killing at least 29,782 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% of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% 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.

Hundreds mourn US airman who self-immolated at Israeli Embassy in protest of Gaza war

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