TEL AVIV – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the families of the victims of the Orlando massacre, saying that Israel stands “shoulder to shoulder” with the United States in the fight against terrorism.
“On behalf of Israelis and the government of Israel, I wish to extend our sincerest condolences to the American people in the wake of the heinous attack on the LGBT community in Orlando last night,” the prime minister said in a statement.
“Israel stands shoulder to shoulder alongside the US in this tragic moment of loss,” Netanyahu said. “We share in the despair of the families of the victims.”
At least 50 people were killed and 53 wounded when Omar Mateen, armed with a rifle, opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
President Reuven Rivlin also sent a letter of condolence to President Barack Obama, writing that Israel would stand with Americans “in the moral and just fight against all forms of violence and hatred.”
“Once again we feel the pain of terrible loss as we see the blood spilled of young and innocent people. There is no comfort for those who have had their loved ones torn away from them.”
“This attack against the LGBT community in Orlando is as cowardly as it is abhorrent,” Rivlin wrote.
Opposition leader and leader of the Zionist Union party Isaac Herzog expressed his sorrow and solidarity with the “victims of darkness and hatred” in a Facebook post.
Mateen, a U.S. citizen born to Afghan parents, worked as a security guard with an American firm. Father to a three-year-old boy, Mateen is alleged to have been on the FBI’s radar after his name emerged in an investigation a number of years ago. The FBI determined that the gunman had “leanings” toward Islamic fundamentalism.
Mateen, who did not have a criminal record, was killed by a SWAT team several hours after the attack began.
The FBI said there were “suggestions” Mateen had “leanings” toward Islamic terror. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack after Mateen pledged allegiance to the terror group.
Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News that his son became enraged after seeing two men kissing in Miami some months ago. He added that neither he nor his wife knew anything about his son’s plan and that it “had nothing to do with religion.”
In his televised address following the attack, Obama made no mention of Islam or Islamic terror in connection with the shooting, and said there was “no definitive judgement” on the gunman’s motive.