In Vermont, a man opened fire on Palestinian students: three were wounded - ForumDaily
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Man opens fire on Palestinian students in Vermont, wounding three

On the evening of November 25, three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont. The suspect was arrested on November 26 in the afternoon, reports CNN.

Photo: IStock

The case has attracted national attention amid concerns about rising levels of hate crimes since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.

Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arrested near the scene of the attack. Authorities said Eaton lives in an apartment building across from the shooting scene. A search of his home uncovered evidence that gave investigators "reason to believe that Eaton committed a crime."

Officials did not specify what charges Eaton faces, but a police statement described the case as three counts of aggravated assault. He is expected to appear in court on November 27.

On the subject: In Chicago, a landlord killed a 6-year-old Muslim boy and wounded his mother in a hate crime.

The Vermont District Attorney's Office and other authorities are investigating whether the shooting may have been a hate crime, officials said.

Details of the attack

The students, all 20 years old, were walking down the street on the evening of November 25 when they encountered a man with a gun. He opened fire "without saying a word" and then fled, according to the police department. Two were wounded in the torso, and another was wounded in the lower extremities.

Two of the students were in stable condition over the weekend, but the third suffered "much more serious injuries," police said.

The students were identified as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island, Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and Tahsin Ahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut. Family members of the two students plan to travel to the United States this week.

Family members of the victims and several civil rights groups have called on investigators to scrutinize whether the shootings were motivated by hate, as the attack comes amid reports of rising incidents of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias in the US due to the war between Israel and Hamas that flared in the past. month.

“At this tense moment, one suspects that this may have been a hate crime,” Burlington Police Chief John Murad wrote in an earlier press release.

A lawyer for the victims' families, Abed Ayoub, said he believed the students were attacked in part because two of them were wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian scarves.

“The suspect approached them and shot. They weren’t robbed,” Ayub said. “This was a targeted shooting and a targeted crime.”

Students were shot while walking

According to Marwan Awartani, a former Palestinian education minister who speaks on behalf of the victims' families, the three students went to Burlington to visit Hisham Awartani's grandmother for the Thanksgiving holiday. They were going for a walk before dinner when they were attacked.

Investigators determined they were walking on Prospect Street when they encountered the suspect. He was described as a white male who was "walking in the area," police said before Eaton's arrest.

“Without saying a word, the suspect fired at least four shots from a handgun and is believed to have fled on foot,” police said in a news release.

Around 18:30 p.m., police found two people injured at the scene. The third victim was found nearby. All three men were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, police said.

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Before coming to the United States for college, the three men attended Ramallah Friends School together, a private, nonprofit school in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Avartani was wounded in the spine, but his condition is stable. His mother, Elizabeth Price, is trying to leave Ramallah and travel to the United States to see her son. Avartani is immobilized as doctors work to increase blood flow to his spine.

In a statement, the victims' families said they were "extremely concerned for the safety and well-being of the children."

“No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony. Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures,” the families said in a joint statement.

“We will not feel comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice,” the families said in a statement. “We must ensure that our children are protected and this heinous crime does not happen again.”

Concerns about the war between Israel and Hamas

In their calls for justice, the victims' families and civil rights groups confirmed that the shootings occurred amid near-constant anxiety among some Muslim and Arab communities in the United States. They report fearing for their safety since the outbreak of war in the Middle East.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, said the attack came "as Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians across the country report a surge in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hatred following escalating violence in Palestine and Israel."

Earlier this month, CAIR said it had seen a more than 200 percent increase (compared to the same period last year) in incidents involving anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias.

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The president of Brown University, where Awartani attends, acknowledged that many on campus are expressing "deep concern and fear about rising tensions and violence locally and globally."

“I know this heinous and despicable act of violence—the latest evidence of the anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian discrimination and hatred growing across the country and the world—will leave many in our community deeply shaken,” Brown President Christina Paxson said.

“We know this will heighten concerns about the personal safety of Palestinian and Arab members of our community,” she added.

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