Three Palestinian students shot in suspected hate crime in Vermont

Three Palestinian students have been shot in Vermont in what is feared to have been a hate crime linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

The victims, all aged 20, were named by the Institute for Middle East Understanding as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested.

The young men were in Burlington to visit family for Thanksgiving when they were approached by a white man with a handgun who, without speaking, fired at least four bullets and then fled.

Two of the three students were wearing keffiyehs – a scarf popular in the Middle East – police said. It is understood they were speaking Arabic at the time of the attack.

Vermont victims and ambulance officers
First responders at the scene of the attack in Burlington - Wayne Savage/Reuters

All three are being treated in hospital. Two were described as being stable, while the third sustained “much more serious injuries”, according to local police.

“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime,” said Jon Murad, the chief of Burlington Police.

“And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven.”

Jason J Eaton was arrested by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducting a search of the shooting area in Burlington on Sunday afternoon, the Burlington Police Department said.

Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali and Kinnan Abdulhamid
Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali and Kinnan Abdulhamid were on their way to a family dinner - Institute for Middle East Understanding

Authorities collected evidence during a search of Eaton’s apartment in a building in front of the shooting location. He is scheduled to appear before court on Monday, police said.

Bernie Sanders, one of Vermont’s senators and a former presidential candidate, condemned the shooting.

“It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington,” he wrote on X.

“Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation. My thoughts are with them and their families.”

Miro Weinberger, the mayor of Burlington, described the shooting as “unacceptable”.

The shooting was the latest incident in which anger over the war in Gaza has spilled over into the US.

Jewish students have faced harassment on several campuses in the US and there has also been a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes over the past month.

Within days of the Oct 7 Hamas attack on Israel, a six-year-old Muslim boy died after being stabbed 36 times and his mother was seriously injured after suffering more than a dozen stab wounds.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has offered a $10,000 (£7,900) reward for information leading to the arrest of the Vermont shooter.

Nihad Awad, the national executive director of CAIR, said: “Due to the unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate and violence we have witnessed in recent weeks, local, state and national law enforcement authorities must investigate a possible bias motive for the shooting of these three young men.”

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