ATLANTA — A protester was in critical condition Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also injured.
A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference.
He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.
“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.”
Authorities did not release the protester’s name, age or gender. The person set up outside the building in the city’s midtown neighborhood on Friday afternoon and used gasoline as an accelerant, Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith said.
The protester was in critical condition, with burn injuries to the body. A security guard that tried to stop the person was burned on his wrist and leg, Smith said.
Schierbaum said police are aware of heightened tensions in the Jewish and Muslim community and have stepped up patrols at certain locations, including the consulate.
Demonstrations have been widespread and tensions in the U.S. have escalated as the death toll rises in the Israel-Hamas war. A weeklong cease-fire that brought the exchanges of dozens of hostages held by Hamas for scores of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel gave way Friday morning to resumed fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Cease-fire mediator Qatar said efforts are ongoing to renew the truce, which saw Israel pause most military activity in Gaza and release 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for militants freeing over 100 hostages held in Gaza.
Up until the truce began, more than 13,300 Palestinians had been killed — roughly two-thirds of them women and minors — according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza. The toll is likely much higher.
Some 1,200 Israelis were killed, mostly during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war.
Israel pounded targets in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, giving rise to renewed concerns about civilian casualties.
At least 200 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting resumed Friday morning, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, even as the United States urged ally Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians.
Many of Israel’s attacks Saturday were focused on the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, where the military said it had struck more than 50 Hamas targets with airstrikes, tank fire and its navy.
The military dropped leaflets the day before warning residents to leave but, as of late Friday, there had been no reports of large numbers of people leaving, according to the United Nations.
“There is no place to go,” lamented Emad Hajar, who fled with his wife and three children from the northern town of Beit Lahia a month ago to seek refuge in Khan Younis.
“They expelled us from the north, and now they are pushing us to leave the south.”
Israel’s military said it also carried out strikes in the north, and hit more than 400 targets in all across the Gaza Strip.
Some 2 million people — almost Gaza’s entire population — are crammed into the territory’s south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war’s start and has since vowed to extend its ground assault. Unable to go into north Gaza or neighboring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 220-square-kilometer (85-square-mile) area. / AP