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Who Are the Three Palestinian Students Who Were Shot in Vermont? What We Know So Far

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Three college students of Palestinian descent—two of whom are U.S. citizens and the other a legal resident, according to police—remain under intensive care after a white man shot them on Saturday night in Burlington, Vermont, while visiting relatives over Thanksgiving. 

Kinnan Abdalhamid, Tahseen Ahmed, and Hisham Awartani, all aged 20, were shot in the front yard of a house belonging to one of their relatives after they’d returned from bowling, according to police. Two of them were wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian headscarves, and were speaking in Arabic. The three men were initially identified in a joint statement by their families, which called on authorities to “conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime.” 

Ramallah Friends School, a private school that teaches kindergarten through high school in the West Bank, also identified the three victims as alumni. The three had been friends since first grade, said Rania Ma’ayeh, head of the school, the AP reported.

Burlington police chief Jon Murad told CNN that one of the students has suffered a spinal injury with long-term implications, while another who was struck in the torso has a good prognosis. The third student, who was shot in the lower extremities, might be released in the coming days, he said. 

Rich Price, Awartani’s uncle, said the three were houseguests for their Thanksgiving celebrations who had just attended the 8-year-old birthday party of his twins. “If you’re in college, who wants to go to an eight-year-old’s birthday party?” Price told reporters at a news briefing. “But these three guys did—they came, they played with my boys. We had just come home and they were walking around the block, and this is when this happened.”

The families of the victims as well as rights organizations have urged authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime. 

The suspected gunman, who authorities identified as nearby resident Jason J. Eaton, was charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder on Monday—but the 48-year-old pleaded not guilty.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who has been briefed about the shooting, said he has spoken to Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to offer support, and that additional resources will be provided to aid in the investigation of the crime.

“While we are waiting for more facts, we know this: there is absolutely no place for violence or hate in America. Period,” he said Monday night. “No person should worry about being shot at while going about their daily lives. And far too many Americans know a family member injured or killed as a result of gun violence.”

Read More: The Israel-Hamas War Is Leading to an Uptick in Hate Crimes

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said in a statement on Sunday, “we have reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab.” 

Here’s what we know so far about the victims of the shooting.

Kinnan Abdalhamid, 20

Abdalhamid, a pre-med junior at Haverford College who was described as Illinois-born when he was quoted in the college’s student newspaper last month, was shot in the backside. He is part of the school’s track team and runs in 200- and 400-meter races for the Division III track team, NBC reports.

In a statement published by the Pennsylvania liberal arts college on Sunday, school authorities said they were in contact with Abdalhamid’s family, who live overseas. 

“Kinnan and his friends are all Palestinian students studying at U.S. colleges and universities. Police are investigating the shootings, and we await word on whether it will be pursued as a hate crime,” the statement said. “In the meantime, know that Haverford College condemns all acts of hatred.” 

“He is a really bright kid,” a friend of Abdalhamid told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The kind of kid who gets the homework done for the whole semester on the first week of class.”

Abdalhamid’s Instagram bio identifies himself as a registered EMT sprinter and includes a link to a pro-Palestinian advocacy and fundraising website.

Abdalhamid had hid and called for help when the shooting started, his mother told ABC News, “so he thought that his friends had passed away when he was taken by the ambulance.” 

“This was incredibly difficult for him and painful—both as a trained EMT who couldn't help his friends as he said, and second, they're not actually just his friends but his brothers in a sense, they've grown up together,” she said. 

Rati Tamimi, Abdalhamid’s uncle, said in a press conference Monday night that they thought there would be more risk to his safety if he stayed in the West Bank and thus sending him to the U.S. would be the “right decision.” “We feel somehow betrayed in that decision here,” he then said.

Kinnan is expected to make a “full and speedy recovery,” said Price.

Tahseen Ali Ahmad, 20

Ahmad, who was shot in the chest according to the Ramallah Friends School, studies mathematics and IT at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. 

A school staff member visited Ahmad on Sunday morning, according to a statement from Trinity College. “Tahseen wants the Trinity community to know that he is in stable condition,” the statement said. “At this moment, please keep Tahseen and his friends in your heart.”

Hisham Awartani, 20

Awartani, who has been identified as Palestinian-Irish-American, is a junior studying mathematics and archaeology at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Awartani’s great-uncle Marwan Awartani, a former education minister of the Palestinian Authority, told the New York Times that a bullet had struck Hisham’s spinal cord, and the 20-year-old lost feeling in the lower part of his body. Elizabeth Price, Awartani’s mother, told ABC News on Monday that the bullet remains lodged in his spine and doctors are unsure if he will be able to walk again. 

A statement from Brown University President Christina Paxson to the university community on Sunday evening said that they were “very relieved and grateful to learn that he is expected to survive his injuries.” The school will be holding a vigil on Monday afternoon to “condemn anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian discrimination and acts of violence and hate, and express care and empathy for one another,” Paxson said. In October, Hisham had attended a vigil hosted by Brown Students for Justice in Palestine in response to the violence in Gaza, according to the student newspaper the Brown Daily Herald. “If Palestinians had to hold vigils every time our people were massacred, we would be bankrupt from buying candles,” he said during his speech at the event. “There is no respite for us.”

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