Atlanta police say the move was “likely an extreme act of political protest,” but not linked to terrorism FILE PHOTO. © Facebook / Atlanta Police Department

A demonstrator suffered severe injuries after setting themselves ablaze near the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, according to local law enforcement. The head of the diplomatic mission later denounced the protest as an example of “hate and incitement” against Israel.

The unnamed protester was in critical condition with major burns after the self-immolation on Friday afternoon, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told reporters, noting that a security guard was also injured while attempting to intervene.

“We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred,” the police chief said, adding that investigators did not see “any nexus to terrorism,” and that consular officials were never in danger during the incident.

Pro-Palestinian protest leads to lockdown at US Capitol Pro-Palestinian protest leads to lockdown at US Capitol

A Palestinian flag was found near the scene, and gasoline was used as an accelerant, local officials said, but stressed that the exact motive behind the action remained unclear. Schierbaum said police were aware of religious and political tensions related to ongoing fighting in the Middle East, and had increased patrols across Atlanta.

Multiple federal agencies are assisting the investigation, including the FBI.

The consulate later issued a statement, with Israeli Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon saying “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building.” She described the incident as a “horrific” expression of “hate and incitement toward Israel.”

The US has seen a wave of protests related to continued hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, with pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrations held in several major cities in recent weeks. Reports of anti-Semitic incidents have also spiked, including false bomb threats made to 15 New York synagogues earlier on Friday, as have apparent hate crimes against Palestinians.

The latest bout of violence in the Middle East erupted following a major attack last month by Palestinian armed group Hamas, which left some 1,200 Israelis dead. Retaliatory airstrikes and ground operations by Israel have killed over 15,000 Palestinians, according to local officials, who have warned of a dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and urged Israel to allow additional aid into the besieged enclave.

The fighting was interrupted by a week-long truce, which expired on Friday. During that period, Hamas released 81 Israelis and 24 foreign nationals it had captured during an incursion into Israeli territory on October 7. Israel, meanwhile, has released 210 Palestinian prisoners. (RT)