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Families of Palestinian Americans shot in Vermont while wearing kaffiyehs allege men were targeted in hate crime

Families of Palestinian Americans shot in Vermont while wearing kaffiyehs allege men were targeted in hate crime

The mothers of Palestinian American college students shot on the street have no doubt that the men were targeted, and say the shooting should absolutely be treated as a hate crime.

Three men, all 20 years old, were shot near the University of Vermont in Burlington last week.

They all speak in Arabic and two of them were wearing kaffiyehs, a symbol of Palestinian identity, when they were shot.

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Tamara Tamimi said that her son, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and his friends, Hisham Awartani and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, had been out in the neighbourhood many times in the days leading up to the shooting.

She said they were speaking Arabic and English before the attack.

“Kinnan started to think recently that perhaps the man had seen them before. He’s like, ‘It just doesn’t make any sense the way that he reacted.’ … It was a split second. He looked at them, and then did a double take. And then he pulled out his pistol without any thought — without any words.”

From left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. Credit: AP

“There is no doubt,” she said. “It just defies logic. Why else would it be? … If they were not wearing the kaffiyeh. … If they were not speaking Arabic.”

She said she would be disappointed if the violence were not treated as a hate crime.

“It would be sorely disappointing only because the facts are so obvious,” Tamimi said.

Jason J Eaton, 48, has been charged in the shooting and has pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree attempted murder.

Prosecutors are working to determine whether to treat the shootings as hate crimes.

An attorney for Eaton, Margaret Jansch, said it would be “premature for us to speculate” on whether he could potentially be charged with a hate crime.

The students’ shooting comes as tensions and incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitism around the globe are on the rise following the October 7 attacks in Israel and the subsequent counterattacks in Gaza.

The victims are longtime friends who graduated from the same school in the occupied West Bank and attend separate colleges in the US.

They told police they were walking near the University of Vermont campus when a white male they did not know emerged, pulled out a gun and opened fire.

Mothers, Tamara Tamimi and Elizabeth Price, believe their sons, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani, were victims of hate crimes. Credit: NBC

“We walked around the block and on the way back, across the sidewalk, we see this man standing on his porch looking away,” Abdalhamid said.

“He turned around and as soon as he saw us, he ran down the steps, pulled out a pistol and started shooting.”

“He first shot my friend Tahseen, and I soon heard the sound of his body on the ground and him screaming. That was my signal to run. Then I soon heard another pistol shot while running, Hisham hit the floor,” he recalled.

“I jumped the fence and I believe that’s when he shot me.”

Abdalhamid said he hid in the backyard of a house for a minute or two, shaking in fear.

He limped as he rushed to another house where he saw through the windows that people were inside.

“I knocked the glass. I was like ‘Please, come out, I need y’all to come out.’ They stared for a bit and reluctantly came,” he recounted. He explained that his friends had been shot, and the family in the home called 911 and told him to sit on a bench outside.

Once he sat, he felt a sharp pain in his backside.

“That’s when I was like, ‘Oh, I was shot as well,’” Abdalhamid said.

Young man paralysed

Awartani, a junior at Brown University in Rhode Island, was shot in the spine while Abdalhamid, a Haverford College student, was shot in the glute.

Ali Ahmad, who was shot in the chest, is a student at Connecticut’s Trinity College.

Elizabeth Price said her son, Hisham Awartani, is paralysed from the mid-torso downward.

“He has what they call an incomplete spinal injury, which means that he can feel, but he can’t move the areas that are currently paralysed,” Price said.

“He is going into intensive rehab later this week, and we hope that that will help with his prognosis. … He’s resolute. He’s resilient.”

Hisham Awartani is paralysed from the midtorso downward. Credit: NBC

Price said the suspect dehumanised her son and his friends.

She said “toxic rhetoric” against Palestinians most likely contributed to the suspect’s motive.

“He intended to take their lives because he thought they weren’t worthy of living,” she said.

Awartani and Abdalhamid are US citizens, and Ali Ahmad is a legal US resident.

Price also said the friends have been “frustrated” they’ve received so much attention and feel Palestinians in Gaza have been ignored and forgotten.

Tamimi said her son is out of the hospital and doing well physically but struggling emotionally and having trouble eating and sleeping.

Child fighting for life after suffering ‘suspicious’ injuries

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