“The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent,” one advocate said.

by Olivia Rosane, Common Dreams

Three university students of Palestinian descent were shot and wounded Saturday night in Burlington, Vermont.

The students were identified as Brown University studeht Hisham Awartani, Haverford College student Kinnan Abdel Hamid, and Trinity College student Tahseen Ahmed. In a Sunday morning statement posted on social media, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (AOC) said they had “reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three victims being Arab.”

police in burlington at the scene of a shooting

“We are praying for a full recovery of the victims, and will support the families in any way that is needed,” AOC executive director Abed A. Ayoub said in a statement. “Given the information collected and provided, it is clear that the hate was a motivating factor in this shooting. We call on law enforcement to investigate it as such.”

“The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent,” Ayoub continued.

The three 20-year-olds were visiting one of the trio’s family members in Burlington for Thanksgiving, police said, as the Burlington Free Press reported. They were walking along a residential street near the University of Vermont campus around 6:30 pm Eastern Time when a white man confronted them, according to Seven Days.

“The suspect was on foot in the area. Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot,” police said, as the Burlington Free Press reported.

Police said that two of the men were wearing keffiyehs at the time of the shooting, while AOC said that all three were wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic. Police, however, said they did not yet know the shooter’s motives.

“My deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families,” Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement reported by the Burlington Free Press. “In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime. And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven.”

The three men were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center where two are stable and one “has sustained much more serious injuries,” police told Seven Days on Sunday.

Two of the students are U.S. citizens and the third is a legal resident.

The families of the three men circulated a statement through the nonprofit Institute for Middle East Understanding.

“We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime,” the statement read in part. “We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice.”

“We need to ensure that our children are protected, and this heinous crime is not repeated. No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony,” the families continued.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it was offering $10,000 to anyone providing information that led to the arrest or conviction of the shooter or shooters, and the FBI said it was aware of the incident and prepared to investigate if local police found evidence of a federal crime, according to TheAssociated Press.

The head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot, linked the shootings to the killing of six-year-old Wadea Al Fayoume last month, a Palestinian boy who was stabbed 26 times by his family’s landlord in Chicago.

“The hate crimes against Palestinians must stop,” Zomlot tweeted. “Palestinians everywhere need protection.”

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also issued a statement.

“It is shocking and deeply upsetting that three young Palestinians were shot here in Burlington, Vermont,” Sanders said on social media. “Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation. My thoughts are with them and their families.”

In the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel and Israel’s bombardment of Gaza afterword, both Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents have increased in the U.S., The Guardian reported. CAIR said it had received 1,283 reports of discrimination and petitions for help between early October and early November, a 216% increase from the same time period last year.