Burlington Chief Says Shooting of 3 Palestinian Students Likely a Hate-CrimeBy Joy Liwanag
The recent shooting of three Palestinian college students near the University of Vermont has sparked widespread concern and condemnation, amplifying tensions across the United States amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. The incident, reported by WPXI, occurred on Saturday when a white man with a handgun approached the three 20-year-old students, leading to injuries and raising fears of a hate crime.
Investigation Points to Hate Crime Amidst Global Outcry
According to Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, the victims were identified as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Tahseen Ahmed. The assailant shot two of the students in their torsos, while the third was struck in the lower extremities. The injured students were promptly transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where two are reportedly in stable condition, and the third faces more serious injuries. The suspect is currently at large, prompting an intensive investigation by law enforcement.
The authorities are treating the attack as a potential hate crime, given that two of the victims were wearing black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarves at the time of the shooting. Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, in a press release, acknowledged the possibility of a hate-motivated crime, stating, "No one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime." Murad emphasized ongoing collaboration with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for potential developments in the case.
Families of the victims, in a statement issued through the Institute for Middle East Understanding, expressed profound devastation, emphasizing their primary concern for the full recovery of their children. They called for a thorough investigation, urging law enforcement to treat the shooting as a hate crime and bring the perpetrator to justice.
Responses from Officials and Calls for Justice
Social media has been a platform for widespread condemnation and calls for justice. Prominent figures, activists, and concerned citizens have taken to various platforms to express their shock and condemnation of the incident. Political analyst Omar Baddar described the shooting as a "deeply alarming time" in the country, reflecting the growing unease and tension surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Human rights activist Mohamad Safa called for an end to hate crimes against Palestinians, emphasizing the urgent need for protection. Basil Awartani, a relative of one of the victims, linked the incident to "dangerous and dehumanizing rhetoric regurgitated by U.S. politicians and right-wing pundits," highlighting the potential consequences of such inflammatory speech.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in response to the shooting, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those responsible. In a statement on social media, CAIR underscored the urgency of holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions.
The Government's Response
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, denounced the attack on social media, expressing his shock and deep upset. Sanders emphasized that "hate has no place here, or anywhere," and he looks forward to a full investigation. The senator's remarks underscore the gravity of the situation and the need for swift action.
The White House reported that President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and will continue to receive updates as law enforcement gathers more information. The incident adds to the rising concerns about violence fueled by Islamophobic or antisemitic sentiment amid escalating tensions related to the Israel-Hamas conflict. As the investigation unfolds, the public remains on edge, awaiting justice for the victims and hoping to prevent the recurrence of such heinous acts in a nation grappling with the broader ramifications of an overseas conflict.