Israeli leaders on Saturday conveyed their “deepest condolences” to Washington in the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school shooting rampage Friday that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama in which he condemned the “savage massacre of innocents” that targeted the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

“We in Israel have experienced such cruel acts of slaughter and we know the shock and agony that they bring,” wrote the prime minister.

“I want to express my profound grief, and that of all the people of Israel, to the families that lost their loved ones,” he said, expressing hope that Obama and the American people would “find the strength to overcome this unspeakable tragedy.”

The letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to US President Barack Obama.

The letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to US President Barack Obama.

President Shimon Peres also sent his condolences to the White House, saying that the hearts of the Israeli people went out to the victims and their families.

“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,” the president wrote.

“On behalf of the people of Israel, as friends and as parents, we stand with you today in
contemplation and grief over the atrocious, incomprehensible massacre of 20 children and six
adults — educators — at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” he added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Hatnua (“the movement”) chief Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, conveyed her sympathies to Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter.

“I was shocked to the depths of my soul in light of the tragic news of the killings at a Connecticut school,” she wrote. “Senseless violence has reared its ugliest head and struck at the most fragile of human beings — young children.”

Images of a tearful Obama speaking after the shooting resonated around the world Saturday, with many outside the United States expressing hope Saturday that America’s latest school massacre would prompt the country to strengthen gun control.

A police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, on Friday (photo credit: AP/Newtown Bee/Shannon Hicks)

A police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, on Friday (photo credit: AP/Newtown Bee/Shannon Hicks)

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union’s executive Commission, said: “Young lives full of hope have been destroyed. On behalf of the European Commission and on my own behalf, I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy.”

The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home before beginning his deadly rampage inside the school in Newtown, Connecticut, then committed suicide, police said.

Later Saturday, as a stunned world asked how a 20-year-old described as brilliant but remote would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims, some as young as 5, police said Lanza had forced his way into the school.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the “horrific shooting.”

“My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones,” he said. “It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them.”

Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to President Barack Obama, saying she was shocked to learn of the “dreadful loss of life” and that the thoughts and prayers of all in the UK are with those affected by the events.

Pope Benedict XVI asked the Holy See’s secretary of state to “convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all those affected by the shocking event,” the Vatican said Saturday. It also sent a condolence message to Monsignor Jerald A. Doyle at the diocese in Connecticut that includes Newton.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast conveyed his country’s condolences for the families of the victims in a statement, but he also took the opportunity to call on the US to fight “warmongering and the massacre of innocent people” around the world.

“There is no difference between the children and teenagers who are victimized by armed attacks in Gaza and the US, Afghanistan or Pakistan and Iraq or Syria, and everyone should try to ensure overall peace, security and tranquility for all the people around the world,” read the statement.

But amid the messages of condolences, much of the discussion after the Connecticut rampage centered on gun control — a baffling subject for many in Asia and Europe, where mass shootings also have occurred but where access to guns is much more heavily restricted.

Many Twitter users and media personalities in the UK immediately invoked Dunblane — a 1996 shooting in that small Scottish town which killed 16 children. That tragedy prompted a campaign that ultimately led to tighter gun controls effectively making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun in the UK.

“This is America’s Dunblane,” British CNN host Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter late Friday. “We banned handguns in Britain after that appalling tragedy. What will the US do? Inaction not an option.”

French President Francois Hollande said in an open letter to Obama that he was “horrified” by the shooting, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin called the events “particularly tragic,” given that the majority of the victims were children.

US President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting on Friday, from the White House briefing room (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

US President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting on Friday, from the White House briefing room (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

“Vladimir Putin asked Barack Obama to convey words of support and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims and expressed his empathy with the American people,” the Kremlin said in a statement about Putin’s message to the US president.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the attack as a “senseless and incomprehensible act of evil.”

“Like President Obama and his fellow Americans, our hearts too are broken,” Gillard said in a statement, referring to the US leader’s emotional expression of condolence.

Australia confronted a similar tragedy in 1996, when a man went on a shooting spree in the southern state of Tasmania, killing 35 people. The mass killing sparked outrage across the country and led the government to impose strict new gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

The attack quickly dominated public discussion in China, rocketing to the top of topic lists on social media and becoming the top story on state television’s main noon newscast.

China has seen several rampage attacks at schools in recent years, though the attackers there usually use knives and not guns. The most recent attack happened Friday, when a knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in central China.

With more than 100,000 Chinese studying in US schools, a sense of shared grief came through.

“Parents with children studying in the US must be tense. School shootings happen often in the US Can’t politicians put away politics and prohibit gun sales?” Zhang Xin, a wealthy property developer, wrote on her feed on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, where she has 4.9 million followers. “There will always be mental patients among us. They should not be given guns.”

In India, Kiran Bedi, a retired pioneering policewoman who is now a major anti-corruption activist, tweeted in the shorthand style familiar to users of text services that: “Firearms in hands of unbalanced r security threat! Gun/even Driving license issue needs due diligence! They r responsibility before a right!”

Some in South Korea, whose government does not allow people to possess guns privately, blamed a lack of gun control in the United States for the high number of deaths in Connecticut. Most people on the Internet expressed utter shock at the scale of the tragedy, many of them calling it frightful and unimaginable and expressing condolences to the families of the victims.

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s top daily, speculated in an online report that it appears “inevitable” that the shooting will prompt the US government to consider tighter gun control.

In Thailand, which has one of Asia’s highest rates of murder by firearms and has seen schools attacked by Islamist insurgents in its southern provinces, a columnist for the English-language daily newspaper The Nation blamed American culture for fostering a climate of violence.

“Repeated incidents of gunmen killing innocent people have shocked the Americans or us, but also made most people ignore it quickly,” Thanong Khanthong wrote on Twitter. “Because each Hollywood movie, namely Batman and Spiderman, have hidden the message of violence and brutal killings.”

Mourners gather at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday (photo credit: AP/Andrew Gombert)

Mourners gather at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday (photo credit: AP/Andrew Gombert)

“Intentionally or not, Hollywood and video games have prepared people’s mind to see killings and violence as normal and acceptable,” he wrote.

In Japan, where guns are severely restricted and there are extremely few gun-related crimes, public broadcaster NHK led the noon news Saturday with the shooting, putting it ahead of an update on the final day of campaigning before Sunday’s nationwide parliamentary elections.

NHK, which had a reporter giving a live broadcast from the scene, said that five of the children at the school were Japanese, and that all five were safe. Its report could not immediately be independently confirmed.

Condolences poured in also from Baghdad.

“We feel sorry for the victims and their families. And this tragic incident shows there is no violence-free society in the world, even in Western and non-Muslim countries,” said Hassan Sabah, 30, owner of stationary shop in eastern Baghdad.

Samir Abdul-Karim, a 40-year-old government employee from eastern Baghdad said, “This attack shows clearly that US society is not perfect and the Americans do have people with criminal minds and who are ready to kill for the silliest reasons. ”

He added, “If such an attack happened in Iraq or Afghanistan, I am sure the US media would have seized the chance to depict the Arabs or Muslims as savage people who do not hesitate to kill children. ”

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent a condolence message to Obama. “We express our condolences to the families of the victims,” he said. “The sympathy of the Japanese people is with the American people.”

In the Philippines, a society often afflicted by gun violence, President Benigno Aquino III said he and the Filipino people stand beside the United States “with bowed heads, yet in deep admiration over the manner in which the American people have reached out to comfort the afflicted, and to search for answers that will give meaning and hope to this grim event.

“We pray for healing, and that this heartbreak will never be visited on any community ever again,” Aquino said in a statement tweeted by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte.