Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated his condolences to U.S. President Barack Obama following the tragic school shooting on Friday in Newtown, Connectictut that left 27 dead, most of them children under ten.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, "I would like to express my shock and that of the Government of Israel, and – I am sure – that of all Israelis – over the awful massacre that took place at the school in Connecticut.
"I send condolences to President Obama, to the bereaved families and to the American people. Who like us in Israel is familiar with massacres of children and innocents? I pray that the families and the American people find the strength to overcome this terrible tragedy," the prime minister said.
In the wake of the shooting, Netanyahu sent a letter of condolences to Obama on Friday.
"Dear President Obama, I was shocked and horrified by today's savage massacre of innocent children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut," Netanyahu wrote.
"We in Israel have experienced such cruel acts of slaughter and we know the shock and agony they bring. I want to express my profound grief, and that of all the people in Israel, to the families that lost their loved ones. May you and the American people find the strength to overcome this unspeakable tragedy."
President Shimon Peres extended his condolences to Obama as well. "No experience with death can be likened to that of a parents’ loss of their child. No crime is more heinous than the killing of a child. Our hearts are with the bereaved families of the victims, the mourning community in Newtown, Connecticut and the people of the United States of America. Our thoughts and prayers are with you."
U.S. authorities on Saturday continued a wide-ranging investigating into the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, trying to understand what led 20-year-old Adam Lanza to kill his mother in their home and then slaughter 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school before taking his own life.
Army Radio interviewed Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel in Newtown on Sunday morning. "Today's culture revolves around violence, we need to teach our children the path of peace. We need to change everything," Rabbi Praver said in Hebrew.
The youngest victim among the children killed was a Jewish child, Noah Pozner, who had just turned 6 years old in November.
Rabbi Praver talked to NPR news on Saturday about the tragic event and trying to console the Jewish boy's mother. "I told the mother that was grieving that I personally believe in the eternity of the soul and that I believe that she will see her son again someday. And other than that theological comment, the rest of it was getting her to think about just taking a breath and not trying to plan the rest of her life out right now. You know, she goes what am I going to do without my baby? And just trying to get her to literally survive the moment."
He echoed that sentiment on Army Radio, recalling how he told the mother that Noah's sister needed her to be strong. "There is not way to describe what I felt," he said.
Some witnesses described a harrowing scene inside the school with the sounds of gunfire followed by the sounds of screams as terrified students and staff members hid in classrooms, closets or wherever they could take shelter.
One 9-year-old boy said he was in the gymnasium when the shooting erupted.
"We were in the gym, and I heard really loud bangs," said the boy, as he stood shivering and weeping outside the school with his father's arms draped around him. "We thought that someone was knocking something over. And we heard yelling and we heard gunshots. We heard lots of gunshots. We heard someone say, 'Put your hands up.' I heard, 'Don't shoot.' We had to go into the closet in the gym. Then someone came and told us to run down the hallway. There were police at every door, there were lots of people crying and screaming."
Eighteen of the students were pronounced dead at the school, and two others were taken to a hospital where they were declared dead. All the adults who were fatally shot at the school were pronounced dead at the scene.
As news of the shooting spread, frantic family members descended on the scene and were taken to a nearby firehouse where teachers and students who had been evacuated from the school were taken by the authorities. Some clergy members were also at the firehouse.
"It was very emotional...The teachers wrote down the names of all the children," Rev. Robert Weiss, pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, told the host of the "Today Show" on Saturday. "The ones who were unaccounted for, those parents went to another room and wrote their names on a list."
"They were wondering, did the child know what was happening? Were they afraid? Did they see something coming? And of course no one can answer those questions because there are no survivors. So these parents are left with those unanswered questions in addition to just why this had to happen? Why to their child?"
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, who was at the scene of the shooting comforting relatives of victims, said, "Evil visited this community today."