A protester set themselves on fire Friday afternoon outside a Midtown Atlanta building, suffering critical injuries and also injuring a security guard, police and fire officials said.

Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum called the incident outside the Israeli Consulate building at 1100 Spring Street an “extreme act of political protest.” He said the arson does not have connections to terrorism and that the surrounding community is safe.

“This department is aware of the tensions that are present right now in the Jewish community and in the Muslim community,” Schierbaum said during an afternoon news conference, referring to the numerous protests in Atlanta and across the nation regarding the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. “We actually have dedicated patrols that are occurring at this location and other Jewish and Muslim communities in the city.”

According to Atlanta fire Chief Rod Smith, a security guard noticed someone attempting to set themselves on fire at about 12:20 p.m. and immediately tried to intervene, but failed. The guard was burned on his wrist and leg and was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. The person, who officials only identified as a protester, received “100-degree burns” to their body and is in critical condition at Grady.

“Clearly, this was considered arson,” Smith said.

A Palestinian flag that police said was part of the protest was recovered at the scene. Officials determined that gasoline was utilized to start the fire.

Schierbaum said the protester did not try to enter the Spring Street building.

“Right now, we’re not aware of any credible threat against this location, against the Consulate staff or anyone in this building. We believe this building remains safe and we do not see any threat here,” Schierbaum said.

An Atlanta fire official removes a gasoline can from the scene where two people were burned outside the Israeli Consulate building at 1100 Spring Street in Midtown.

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

For nearly two months, Atlanta has seen several demonstrations organized in support of Israel and Palestine.

During a surprise attack Oct. 7 orchestrated by Hamas, about 1,200 Israelis were killed. Israeli bombardment and a ground campaign that followed Hamas’ attack have left more than three-quarters of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents homeless, the Associated Press reported. More than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed during the war, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

A cease-fire deal that took effect Nov. 24 between Israel and Hamas ended Friday, and fighting quickly resumed. Israel accused Hamas of violating the truce, while Hamas blamed Israel, stating it declined offers to free more hostages, according to AP News. More than 200 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women and minors, were released by Israel, and more than 100 hostages were released by Gaza as part of the truce.

“We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building,” Consul General of Israel to the Southeast, Anat Sultan-Dadon, said in a statement. “It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way. The sanctity of life is our highest value.”

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.