Israeli army releases photo of baby dressed as suicide bomber

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel's army released a photograph purporting to show a Palestinian baby dressed like a suicide bomber with ammunition belts and explosives strapped to its body and a head band of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The authenticity of the picture, which appeared in Israeli newspapers Friday, and whether the belts contained explosives could not be verified.

In a television interview with the British Sky News network, a man whose identity was concealed said he was the baby's uncle and that the photograph was real.

Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib said the picture did not surprise him, and that it was understandable Palestinians would teach their children violence toward Israelis, although he does not support the suicide attacks.

The Israeli army, Khatib said, distributed the picture to ``tell the world that the Palestinians are teaching their children how to hate Israel and how to act against Israel _ and I just want to say this is correct.''

Col. Miri Eisin, a senior intelligence analyst for the army, said the ammunition strapped to the baby probably was not real.

Eisin said the picture was found Tuesday in the family album of a senior member of Hamas who is wanted by the army during a search of his home in the West Bank city of Hebron. She said she did not know if the baby _ who appeared to be about 12 to 18 months old _ was the Hamas activist's son or relative.

She refused to identify the wanted man. Eisin said soldiers photographed the picture and left the original in the family album. She said the soldiers had been looking in the family album for an up-to-date picture of the wanted Palestinian.

Pictures of older children dressing up as suicide bombers are not uncommon, and a boy about 10 was seen at a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip on Friday wearing fake explosives around his waist. But the picture of the baby was unusual and incensed Israelis who have been attacked by 71 suicide bombers in the past 21 months. Many of the bombings have been claimed by Hamas.

``Terror in Diapers'' was splashed across the front page of the Israeli newspaper Maariv along with the picture. The daily Yediot Ahronot also carried the picture on the front page under the headline, ``Chilling Costume.''

Khatib denied his words were an endorsement of suicide bombings _ which the Palestinian Authority officially condemns _ saying he was against them, but that they are ``an unfortunate but inevitable outcome of the Israeli atrocities.''

``The picture was originally taken during a rally or a graduation party at the university,'' said the baby's uncle, who refused to be identified. ``There were TV stations there, photographers, and I think the picture was circulated after it was published by these agencies or over the Internet.''

Sky News filmed him from the back in low light to conceal his identity at his request.

Khatib, former director of the Palestinian polling and research group, the Jerusalem Media Communications Center, noted that the most recent polls have shown more than 60 percent of Palestinians support suicide bombings.

``It doesn't surprise me ... I know exactly the mentality of the Palestinian people and I know exactly the way they think,'' he said.

Eisin said the picture shows how deep the need is for Palestinian reform: ``The idea that they can educate to such a thing is just part of the ongoing deterioration.''