Three Palestinian college students were shot on Saturday while walking to a family dinner in Vermont, in what the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee alleges is a hate crime. The victims of the Burlington, Vermont shooting have been identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid, and Tahseen Ahmed, all of whom are 20 years old.
At least two of the men, including an Ivy League student at Brown University, were reportedly wearing traditional Keffiyeh scarves when they were shot at, as mentioned by Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission in the UK, in a post on Sunday. Police have launched an investigation but no arrests have been made yet.
Just Out of Hatred
Zomlot stated that the three Palestinian men "were shot last night on their way to a family dinner in Burlington." "Their crime? Wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh," he said. "They are critically injured."
The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee confirmed that the victims, all 20 years old, include Awartani, a student at Brown, Abdalhamid at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and Ahmad at Trinity University.
"Preliminary investigation has determined that all three were visiting the home of one victim's relatives in Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday," said Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad.
"The three were walking on Prospect Street when they were confronted by a white male with a handgun. The suspect was on foot in the area. Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot."
When police arrived at the scene, they found three men with gunshot wounds.
Murad noted that two victims were in one location and were treated on-site by the Burlington Fire Department before being transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center. The third victim was located a short distance away and was also taken to the hospital.
"Two were wearing keffiyehs at the time of the assault. At this time, there is no additional information to suggest the suspect's motive, such as statements or remarks by the suspect," authorities said.
Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a Sunday release that he had contacted federal investigators regarding the case.
"In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime," Murad said. "And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it's proven.
"But now that the victims are safe and receiving medical care our next priority is identifying, locating and apprehending the suspect," the chief said.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott also expressed the state's full support for Burlington authorities, describing the shooting as a "tragedy."
"I urge Vermonters to unite to help the community heal and not let this incident incite more hate or divisiveness," Scott said. "We must come together in these difficult times. It is the only way to put a stop to the violence we're seeing."
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee National Director Abed A. Ayoub said: "We are praying for a full recovery of the victims, and will support the families in any way that is needed. Given the information collected and provided, it is clear that the hate was a motivating factor in this shooting.
"We call on law enforcement to investigate it as such. The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent."
The three men were shot while walking along North Prospect Street around 6:30 p.m., WPTZ-TV News reported.
The gunman fired at least four rounds before fleeing the scene. The victims were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where two were listed in stable condition and the third in serious condition.
The shooter remains at large. While WPTZ did not specifically identify the victims as Palestinian, Husam Zomlot and Arab-American outlets assert their Palestinian identity and denounce the incident as a targeted attack amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The October 7 terrorist attack by Palestinian Hamas militants on Israel, followed by an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip, has led to a surge in antisemitic and occasionally anti-Arab violence in the United States. College campuses, including Ivy League schools, have become focal points for unrest.