The Uncle of one of the three Palestinian students shot in the US state of Vermont this weekend said, on Monday, that his nephew had fled violence in the Occupied West Bank, believing that he would be safe in the US, Anadolu Agency reports.
Speaking at a press conference, along with Burlington Mayor, Miro Weinberger, Police Chief Jon Murad and Hisham Awartani’s uncle, Rich Price, Kinnan Abdalhamid’s uncle, Radi Tamimi, said they are “still in shock” over the shooting of the three students as they were speaking Arabic, and were wearing keffiyehs.
The three students who were shot Saturday evening have been identified as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College and Tahseen Ahmad, a student at Trinity College. All are 20 years old.
Kinnan grew up in the West Bank and we always thought that could be more of a risk in terms of his safety and sending him here would be the right decision
Uncle Tamimi said. “We feel somehow betrayed in that decision here and we’re just trying to come to terms with everything.”
Rich Price, the uncle of Hisham Awartani, said the shooting happened after the three Palestinian students attended a birthday party for his 8-year-old twins.
“We had just come home and they were walking around the block and this is when this happened,” he said.
Stating that he moved to the US 15 years ago, he said he could have never imagined that this sort of thing could happen.
Noting that the shooting happened as his sister, who lives in the Occupied West Bank, had come to the US to stay with them for Thanksgiving, he said “tragic irony is not even the right phrase”.
But to have them come stay with me for Thanksgiving and have something like this happen speaks to the level of civic vitriol, speaks to the level of hatred that exists in some corners of this country
Price later thanked the Burlington Police Department and Chief Jon Murad on behalf of the families of the victims.
Families see shooting as hate crime
In response to a question, Price said Kinnan’s family believes the shooting was motivated by hate and that the three young men were targeted because they were Arabs and were wearing keffiyehs.
“We believe in the sanctity of the presumption of innocence and due process. And so we’ll support the authorities as they go through their investigation,” he added.
Kinnan’s Uncle, Tamimi, said the family shares the same sentiment, finding it hard to believe “it was just a random act”.
‘Most disturbing’ event in city’s history
Mayor Miro Weinberger called the shooting of the three young Palestinian college students “one of the most shocking and disturbing events in the city’s history”.
Adding that the suspect, Jason J. Eaton, 48, was arraigned and charged with triple attempted murder charges, he said: “I hope that Burlington’s Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities see in today’s prompt arrest the city’s commitment to justice and keeping all members of our community safe.”
He noted that he had extended a phone call with President Joe Biden and thanked him for the administration’s assistance.
Abed Ayoub, the Executive Director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee said two of the students were placed in the intensive care unit at a local hospital, with one of them listed as critical. The third student was to be released Sunday. It is unclear if their conditions have changed since Ayoub’s Sunday post on X.