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Israel-Palestine: Palestinian student shot in US paralysed from the chest down

GoFundMe page for Palestinian student shot in Vermont last month nears $1m
Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University, may not be able to walk again after being shot last month (X/Twitter)

One of the three Palestinian students shot last week in the US state of Vermont is paralysed from the chest down and may not be able to walk again.

In a GoFundMe page created on Saturday to raise money for Hisham Awartani’s medical expenses, his family and friends shared that “one of the bullets that struck him is lodged in his spine and has left him paralyzed from the chest down”.

“The family is committed to his recovery and remain hopeful, in spite of the grave prognosis,” Awartani’s family said on the GoFundMe page, which has raised nearly $1m in just two days.

Elizabeth Price, Awartani's mother, told NBC News that the injury was an "incomplete spinal injury, which means that he can feel, but he can’t move the areas that are currently paralyzed”.

Price said that he would be going into intensive rehabilitation, in the hope that it would help with his prognosis.

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Awartani, a student at Brown University, was walking near his grandmother's home on 25 November, alongside Kinnan Abdel Hamid, a student at Haverford College, and Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity College. The students, all aged 20, are graduates of the Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank.

The three of them were speaking Arabic and wearing keffiyehs, a scarf synonymous with Palestinian solidarity, and were en route to dinner before they were shot by a gunman in Burlington.

They were transferred to the UVM Medical Center in Burlington for treatment.

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Jason Eaton, 48, was arrested in connection with the shooting and charged with attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Police say they have not yet revealed a motive for the shooting.

The victims' families, however, are calling on authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.

“We believe a full investigation is likely to show our sons were targeted and violently attacked simply for being Palestinian,” a statement from the families said.

“Full justice and accountability are important and needed to ensure that this type of brutal and violent attack does not happen again.”

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee is also calling on authorities to treat the case as a hate crime.

'Tragic irony'

The incident sent shockwaves across US university campuses, where pro-Palestinian student organisers have found themselves on the frontlines of a torrent of protests against Israel's military operation in Gaza.

Over the past eight weeks, since Palestinian fighters broke out of besieged Gaza and launched an attack on Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 Israelis according to the Israeli government, religious-based hate crimes have seen an unprecedented increase in the US within the Arab and Muslim communities and the Jewish community.

In response to the Hamas-led attacks, Israel has killed more than 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza with its military operations 

The Council of American-Islamic Relations has said that within the first two weeks of the war, it saw the most complaints of bias incidents since 2015 when Donald Trump invoked a "Muslim ban".

FBI director Christopher Wray warned at a Senate panel on Tuesday that antisemitic incidents have also grown to "historic levels".

Israel-Palestine war: Three Palestinian students shot in US in critical condition
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A week after the war in Gaza began, a six-year-old Palestinian boy, Wadea al-Fayoume, was murdered by a white man in Illinois. He was stabbed 26 times.

According to police in Plainfield Township, roughly 60km southwest of the city of Chicago, Fayoume and his mother were targeted by their landlord, Joseph Czuba, concerning the war in Gaza and because of their religious beliefs.

Late last month, a former official in the Obama administration was caught on camera launching racist and anti-Islamic tirades against Mohamed Hussein, a 24-year-old food truck vendor in New York City. His comments included threatening Hussein with torture at the hands of the Egyptian intelligence agency.

The former official, Stuart Seldowitz, was later arrested.

The relatives of the three students have called the shooting a "tragic irony", saying that they had been more worried about the rising violence from Israeli settlers in the West Bank and that they felt safe being in the US.

“Kinnan grew up in the West Bank, and we always thought that that could be more of a risk, in terms of his safety, and sending him here would be the right decision,” Tamimi, Abdel Hamid's uncle, said during a press conference on 27 November.

“We feel somehow betrayed in that decision here.”

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