3 Palestinian students in Vermont wearing Palestinian keffiyeh shot (social media)

Washington — Police have arrested a suspect in the shooting of three students of Palestinian origin attending a Thanksgiving holiday rally near the University of Vermont campus on Saturday night.

The three students in Burlington, Vermont, adjacent to the U.S.-Canada border, were shot Saturday night at the age of 20: Hisham Awartani of Brown University; Kenan Abdul Hamid of Haverdfold University; and Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity University. All of them are Palestinians, two are U.S. citizens and the third holds permanent residency.

Berlantagon police chief John Murad said two of the victims were wearing Palestinian keffiyeh in black and white.

Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested by law enforcement agents during a search and investigation operation in the Burlington firing zone at 3:38 p.m. on Sunday, the Burlington Police Department said in a statement.

Authorities gathered evidence during a search of Eaton's apartment in a building near the scene of the shooting, and he is due to appear in court on Monday. Murad said in a statement on Sunday evening that the attack, which wounded three Palestinian students around 3:6 p.m. on Saturday, "may have been a hate crime."

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"A charged moment"

Two of the students have stabilized, while the third suffers from "more serious injuries". Police said the three, aged 20, were walking during a visit to the home of a relative of one of the victims when confronted by a white man carrying a gun.

"Without speaking, he fired at least four shots from the pistol, and he thinks he escaped. The three victims were injured, two in their torso and one in the lower limbs."

The police chief, who expressed sympathy for the victims and their families, said there was no additional information to suggest a motive. "At this fraught moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate crime. "I've already been in contact with federal investigative and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it proves so."

The FBI Regional Bureau of Investigation in Albany, New York, released a statement late Sunday on platform X saying the FBI was investigating the shooting with the local Burlington Police Department and other federal, state and local agencies.


Members of Congress in Vermont condemned the shooting, with Senator Bernie Sanders saying in a statement, "It is deeply shocking and disturbing that 3 Palestinian youths were shot here in Burlington. Hate has no place here or anywhere, I look forward to a full investigation. My sympathy for them and their families."

Senator Peter Welch, in a tweet on the X website, said Vermont "has zero tolerance for hate or Islamophobia" and that he expects law enforcement to "quickly identify the shooter and his motives."

I'm heartbroken by yesterday's senseless shooting of three Palestinian-American students visiting Burlington.

We do not tolerate hate or Islamophobia in Vermont. I expect law enforcement to quickly identify the shooter and their motive, & will continue to monitor the situation.

— Senator Peter Welch (@SenPeterWelch) November 26, 2023

MP Becca Ballint also shared, in a tweet on the X website, demanding that "there be a full investigation into any evidence of a hate crime."

In a statement, Vermont Governor Phil Scott called the shooting a "tragedy," adding, "I offered the state's full support to the mayor and chief of police of Burlington as this senseless crime is investigated, and all support to the Palestinian community and to all residents of the city of Burlington."

Calls for Autism

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger made a similar call to support victims and unite in condemning the violence, saying in a statement: "I call on the residents of Burlington. to stand together, to support these victims, their families and their community with love and kindness."

"The indication that this shooting may be motivated by hatred is chilling. The city of Burlington has zero tolerance for hate crimes and will work relentlessly to bring the shooter to justice."

The White House also said President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting and would continue to receive law enforcement updates. U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffreys called on Americans to "unequivocally denounce the staggering rise of anti-Arab hatred and Islamophobia in America."

Jefferies said on X-platform that "no one should ever be targeted because of their ethnicity or religion in our country," adding, "We will not let hatred win."

A number of activists from local organizations, including the University of Vermont Students for Justice in Palestine, the Vermonters Gathering for Justice in Palestine and the Jewish Voice for Peace in Vermont and New Hampshire, held a solidarity march on Sunday evening in front of Burlington City Hall.

The American Jewish Committee, an organization defending Jews around the world, said on X-platform that it was "horrified" by the attack and urged "law enforcement authorities to investigate this act as a possible hate crime."

In a social media post, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also offered a $10,<> reward for information leading to the arrest of the shooter of Palestinian youths.

American universities, especially prestigious ones, are witnessing a continuous and huge movement opposing the continuation of Israeli aggression. The incident came at a time when hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims have been on the rise since the seventh of last October, the start of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, and the associated huge demonstrations against the US position in support of aggression.

Most notably, the killing of child Wadih al-Fayoumi, who was stabbed to death to death by the owner of a property where his family lives in a suspected hate crime. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says there has been a 162 percent increase in hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims.

Source : Al Jazeera