Three young men of Palestinian descent were shot in the United States over the weekend, in what is suspected to be a hate crime amid Israel’s ongoing invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The three men – identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdel Hamid and Tahseen Ahmed – were shot by a man with a pistol on a street near the University of Vermont in Burlington on Saturday evening. The suspect then ran away, before later being identified as 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton and being arrested yesterday.
Reports stated that the victims, all aged 20, remain under medical care, two with gunshot wounds in their torsos and one in the lower part of his body. According to a Burlington police statement yesterday, “two are stable, while one has sustained much more serious injuries”.
Although the motive for the shooting has not yet been confirmed, it is strongly suspected of being a hate crime based on the fact that the victims were wearing the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh and were speaking Arabic immediately prior to the attack.
According to the non-profit pro-Palestinian advocacy organisation, the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), the shooter first began verbally harassing the young men before drawing his gun and opening fire. The police, however, said that he fired four shots without saying a word.
While two of the victims are American citizens and the third is a legal US resident, all three are reported to be graduates of the Ramallah Friends School, a private Quaker secondary school in the Occupied West Bank.
The attack was met by condemnation by many, not only online, but also in the vicinity, with Burlington Police Chief, Jon Murad, saying in a statement that “In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime”. Burlington’s Mayor, Miro Weinberger, also stated that “an indication that this shooting could have been motivated by hate is chilling, and this possibility is being prioritised” in the investigation.