Wheelchair-bound Israeli veteran sets himself on fire

JERUSALEM Sun Jul 22, 2012 12:39pm BST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A wheelchair-bound Israeli war veteran set himself alight at a bus stop on Sunday, sustaining serious burns, two days after a protester died of injuries from a similar incident.

Police and medics said the man was in his 50s and that passers-by put out the flames that engulfed him on a road near Tel Aviv. He suffered burns over 80 percent of his body.

"His story is a difficult one, his emotional and economic situations weren't easy," said Dudi Gilboa, a member of an Israeli disabled veterans group who knows the man.

Gilboa told Israel Radio he and the wheelchair-bound veteran had been embroiled in a dispute with authorities in charge of rehabilitating and helping wounded veterans.

"We have mourned our friends in battle, we don't want to lose them like this," Gilboa said, echoing the concerns of many in Israel that the July 14 self-immolation of Moshe Silman, at a march against rising housing and food prices, might be copied.

Silman, 57, died of his injuries on Friday and his plight stirred deep emotions in Israel.

Unable to pay debts he owed Israel's National Insurance Institute after failed business ventures, Silman lost his home and was destitute. He left behind a note accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of "taking from the poor and giving to the rich".

Netanyahu called Silman's act "a great human tragedy" in remarks last week.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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