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Burlington shooting leaves three Palestinian students wounded



Burlington, Vermont – Burlington, Vermont, a city typically known for its peacefulness, was shaken by a violent incident over the Thanksgiving weekend. Three young men of Palestinian descent, all in their twenties, became victims of a shooting, which is now under intense investigation. This incident has not only left a community in distress but also raised significant concerns about potential hate-motivated violence.

A Peaceful Visit Turns Tragic

The three men, who were visiting a relative’s home in Burlington for Thanksgiving, found themselves in an unforeseen and harrowing situation. On Prospect Street, around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, they encountered an armed White man. The assailant, who did not engage in any conversation, discharged at least four rounds, grievously injuring the young men. Two of them were shot in the torso, while the third sustained injuries to his lower extremities. While two victims are in stable condition, the third victim suffered more severe injuries.

Suspect and Motive Still Unknown

The suspect, described as a White man, reportedly fled on foot after the attack. The Burlington police have yet to identify him. Investigators are working tirelessly to gather information but have not yet ascertained a motive for this heinous act. Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad urged the public to refrain from making assumptions based on limited information, emphasizing the need for a factual and reliable investigation.

Possible Hate Crime Angle

Given the circumstances, including the fact that two victims were wearing keffiyehs, scarves symbolizing Palestinian solidarity, authorities are not ruling out the possibility of a hate-motivated crime. Chief Murad has been in contact with federal investigative and prosecutorial partners to prepare for this potentiality.

Victims Identified, Community Responds

The victims, later identified by their families, are students from prestigious U.S. colleges. Hisham Awartani is a student at Brown University, Kinnan Abdalhamid is at Haverford College, and Tahseen Ahmed attends Trinity College. They all attended the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker-run private nonprofit school in Ramallah.

In a joint statement, the parents expressed their devastation and called for a thorough investigation, including considering the shooting as a hate crime. They emphasized the urgent need for justice and protection against such crimes.

National Response and Reflection

The shooting has garnered national attention, with statements from various organizations and leaders. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee expressed its belief that the victims were targeted for being Arab, calling for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime. Similarly, Haverford’s president and dean recognized the gravity of the situation and awaited confirmation on whether it will be pursued as a hate crime.

President Biden has been briefed on the incident, reflecting its national significance. Senator Bernie Sanders, representing Vermont, expressed his shock and called for a full investigation, emphasizing that hate has no place in Burlington or anywhere.

Context of Rising Anti-Arab Sentiment

This shooting comes in a climate of increasing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations noted an unprecedented surge in such bias incidents since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict. This event also follows the tragic stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy in Chicago, underscoring the growing concern about violence targeting Arabs and Muslims in America.

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