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Palestinian Students Shot In Vermont Attack Believe Gunman Sought Them Out

Two of the three Palestinian students shot in Vermont in November revealed more details about the attack in a new interview, saying they believe the gunman had seen them before and sought them out because of their heritage.

The two men — Hisham Awartani and Kinnan Abdalhamid, both 20 — recounted the Nov. 25 shooting in an interview out Wednesday with NBC News.

“It’s odd because it happened in Burlington, Vermont. It’s not odd because it happened, full stop,” Awartani said.“In the West Bank growing up, it’s just something that’s normal. Like, so many unarmed young men getting shot by the Israeli army, and they’re just left to bleed out.”

Awartani, Abdalhamid and the third victim, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, all grew up in Palestine’s West Bank and are enrolled in universities in Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania and Connecticut, respectively. They were visiting Awartani’s grandmother over the Thanksgiving break when, upon returning home from a birthday party, a shooter fired at them from a neighboring porch.

The two men said they believe the shooter had seen them earlier wearing Palestinian keffiyehs and was waiting for them on the day of the shooting.

“I don’t know why he’d have a loaded pistol and stand on the porch,” Abdalhamid said.

Fom the left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani, stand together for a photograph.
Fom the left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani, stand together for a photograph.

Fom the left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid, and Hisham Awartani, stand together for a photograph.

All three men were wearing keffiyehs, a symbol of Palestinian solidarity, and speaking a mix of Arabic and English when they were shot.

“Tahseen was screaming. He was shot first,” Abdalhamid said. “Hisham didn’t make a sound. As soon as Tahseen started screaming, I was running.”

Authorities arrested Jason Eaton, 48, two days later in connection with the shooting and charged him with three counts of second-degree attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty on all charges.

The shooting paralyzed Awartani from the chest down, and he’s currently receiving treatment in Massachusetts.

“I take solace in the fact that I’m able to receive this care, and I’m able to receive this physical therapy, and I’m able to, you know, go to a good hospital,” Awartani said. “When, like, it makes me think of, like, other people in Gaza that are, like — who are in wheelchairs, and who, you know, have been disabled by bombings.”

Awartani, Abdalhamid and Ahmad were shot some seven weeks after Oct. 7, when the militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel, killing about 1,200 people. Israel has responded with aggressive force, killing more than 24,000 people in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Awartani and Abdalhamid said they believe the gunman shot them because of the “systematicdehumanization” of Palestinians.

“I think there’s been a lot of attempts for us to fully only demonize the guy, but we realize this is part of a larger systematic issue,” Abdalhamid said.

You can read their full interview here.

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